- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 29, 2006

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group dedicated to improving the entertainment lives of families, provides reviews of the latest movies from a parenting perspective. For more reviews, click on commonsensemedia.org.

‘John Tucker Must Die’

Rating: PG-13 for sexual content and language.

Common Sense Media: Pause. For ages 13 and older.

** (Out of five stars)

Synopsis: Sketchy high school revenge comedy.

Running time: 87 minutes.

Common Sense note: Parents should know that they’ll have to do some course correction after their teens see this movie — which they’ll all want to do. If your kids think this is how to relate to the opposite sex, they’ll never find true love. The almost constant sexual references — both visual (mostly girls in scant costumes) and verbal (slang for genitals and activities) — are hormonally age appropriate but not recommended as healthy teen interaction.

Sketchy behaviors revolve around a high school basketball star who dates multiple girls. The girls seek revenge by humiliating him in public.

Families who see this can have a reality check: What is the likelihood of cheating boyfriends and vengeful girlfriends? And what about revenge in general — is it ever acceptable? Does John deserve to be put in his place? And while we’re on reality checks — whose mom looks like Jenny McCarthy?

More seriously, though, what about the relationship between the mother and daughter? Does that bring up any hot spots with your own teens?

Common Sense review: Beginning with the fact that every “student” is visibly too old to be in high school, “John Tucker Must Die” is out of joint. Its plot is drawn from any number of sources, including “Mean Girls” and “The Perfect Man” with a dash of “Heathers,” as well. The result is that Betty Thomas’ movie strains to be sweet but also cynical, without satisfying on either count.

The titular John (Jesse Metcalfe) is stereotypical big man on campus, basketball star and pathological cheater. Three of John’s most recent squeezes — head cheerleader Heather (Ashanti), blond techie Beth (Sophia Bush), and dark-haired-vegan Carrie (Arielle Kebbel) — decide to teach him a lesson. To that end, they recruit new student Kate (Brittany Snow) as bait.

Apparently damaged by her “totally hot” mom’s (Miss McCarthy) bad experiences with men, Kate agrees to seduce John and then dump him harshly.

Obviously, this is a bad idea.

Throughout the film, the four girls and John indulge in sex-chatter and mildly trashy behavior, all giddily exploring their deceitful powers. (Ostensibly, this is what it means to be an adult, as Kate’s mother’s experiences suggest.)

Kate does meet an honest boy she likes, Scott (Penn Badgley), but she treats him badly as she pursues her aim to “get” John. The fact that Scott is also John’s younger, shyer brother seems an unnecessary complication: oh, the insidiousness of high school comedy plots.

Although everyone supposedly learns the value of honesty, the film closes with the song that spells out their priorities: “I want you to want me.” The poor students in this high school are caught up, no matter which way they turn.

Sexual content: High school girls wear skimpy clothing; boys wear lacy thong underwear; some kissing and petting; references to STDs; discussion of effects of estrogen pills (jokes when boy starts crying and acting “girly”).

Language alert: Some profanity.

Violence alert: Basketball games get rough (body slams; hits in crotches); face slap.

Commercialism alert: Shots of junk food/logos in school food center (Coca-Cola).

Social behavior alert: Drinking at parties.

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