Movie Review – Booksmart – Whipsmart Nerd High School Anthem

 

Movie Review - BooksmartBooksmart is more smart than bookish, featuring the quirky party-hearty hijinks of a girl duo with genuine chemistry. Moverover, Booksmart, for all its modern nods, felt exactly like a 1980s John Hughes film. I mean that as a compliment.

It’s zippy, amusing, pleasant, and sometimes clever. It’s also sometimes raunchy, but never in an obnoxious way.  Booksmart is a fun film with a great message of acceptance.

But is Booksmart only for girls?

Well, no. NO, no, and no, unless you consider The Breakfast Club or Ferris Bueller only for boys. The two leads are gals — and one is an out gay, albeit absolutely inexperienced — but the cast is filled with many unexpectedly interesting characters, none of which are genuine asshats. It’s NOT a girl-power film. Molly and Amy — being bossy and shy respectively — just happen to be girls. No one finds it necessary to comment on it.

And no one gets tossed into lockers! No toilets swishies, underwear wedgies, or more than mild verbal taunts rear their ugly heads. Booksmart refreshingly features no genuinely mean-spirited bullying. Everyone is accepted as the weirdos we are all ultimately at heart: jocks, nerds, drama geeks, hot girls, druggies, manic pixies, artists, skate punks, whatever. I say refreshingly, since I hope high schools are so accepting of differences these days, even if they don’t want to hang out in the same clique. It’s a progressive message of hope.

Booksmart adds a grace note to the teen anthem pantheon — maybe becoming a sleepover ritual rewatch for young people.

What about that ending?

Nothing really gets resolved at the climax, but life isn’t usually neat like that. Even The Breakfast Club ended ambiguously. Here, we see — with wistful pain for us older folks — that intense high school bestie closeness is usually destined to fade with time. But you know what? The beauty of ‘what was’ can never be erased. (Karen and Betsy, I miss us.)

Do I miss high school? Was I a geek? You betcha, to both questions. And I cherish that time. In the midst of many dumb (and dumber) teen movies, this one’s a keeper.

Grade: A-

PS: As I finish this review, The Breakfast Club’s iconic Don’t You Forget About Me just started on the radio. Coincidence? Probably. But a GREAT ONE. [Fist pump in the air.]

About The Peetimes: This really cute movie has 3 good Peetimes. The 2nd, at 1:04, is the best, but you’ll be fine if you read the synopses for any of them. I tried to avoid the best humor or plot pivots.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Booksmart. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (R) for strong sexual content and language throughout, drug use and drinking – all involving teens
Genres: Comedy, teen movie

Virgin Movie Review – 21 Jump Street

jonah hill and channing tatum as cops in high school for 21 jump street
They could have called this Prom Cops and I’d probably have seen it sooner.

21 Jump Street is a sweet little film that flew under my radar until last night. When my mother DVRed it (and subsequent sequel 22 Jump Street) to her TV for our movie night, I was confused. Wasn’t this a TV show? A cop procedural from the 80s?

She promised me it was definitely a movie and probably funny, so I agreed to watch it and make my notes for a virgin movie review. [pullquote]When I saw it had Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum in it, I felt a whole lot better about sitting through it.[/pullquote]

21 Jump Street is actually not a cop procedural, although it’s certainly bookended as one. It’s more like a John Hughes teen angst comedy, with enough cop buddy-hood to keep things a little more grown-up. And yes, upon due investigation, this is a sort of remake/reinvisioned-sequel to the 1987 TV show of the same name. (Sometimes it’s hard to tell if a movie is a continued story or a reboot, but ultimately it doesn’t matter here.)

Was it funny? I’d say I smiled a whole lot throughout and even LOLed a few times. The constant meta-references to Tatum looking too old to be in high school landed well, as did the other funny self-aware bits, like when the police chief tells our guys he’s resurrecting an obsolete, defunct 80s undercover program. Which, yes, that’s exactly what’s happening in-story and outside the confines of 21 Jump Street. When the drama class director says, “And that’s the end of the second act,” it really was the end of the film’s second act. [pullquote position=”right”]For a fluff movie deriving laughs from a fish-out-of-water high school scenario, I found the meta humor more sophisticated than expected in this kind of genre.[/pullquote]

Self-aware joking aside, this movie had a lovely twist in it that I didn’t see coming. I expected things to more or less continue the old school hierarchies seen in the first three minutes, before Hill and Tatum’s characters entered the police academy.

If you haven’t seen 21 Jump Street (the movie, not the TV show), then you might want to stop reading here because I’m going to spoil the twist. Actually, it’s not a twist so much as the entire premise of the show, and I’m surprised I didn’t realize this going in. It made for a pleasant first time viewing to not know, so if you are a complete newbie to this like I was, go away now and come back later.  😉

Spoilers ahead!

When we learn the two boys accidentally took on each other’s fake names, I was prepared for a lot of cringe humor (which I cordially dislike). What I got instead was how Hill’s dweeby persona actually suited him in the brave new world of what is/isn’t cool at school seven years later…and how Tatum’s dim-witted turn as a kid enrolled in advanced placement classes actually leveled him up, to the point he could crack jokes about KNO3 (potassium nitrate), and learn to jail-break a phone with his new-found friendly, accepting nerd friends. [pullquote]It was nice to see a movie where role reversals don’t depend on being desperately out of one’s element.[/pullquote] (Haha, I just made a joke about elements, and wasn’t even trying. See? The film even made me smarter.)

Here’s the cute 21 Jump Street scene about KNO3 (it’s about a minute long):

Also, there’s this bit of rocket fun if you add sugar to potassium nitrate. What’s not to love about chemistry? Also, don’t go out now and blow your fool hands off:

Hill and Tatum have some good chemistry together, which looks like it surprised them as much as the viewer. It was all very playful, like two big puppies wrestling. At the prom.

Now that our next Jump Street sees the “brothers” leaving high school and entering college undercover in 22 Jump Street, I’m looking forward to tonight’s film.

Movie Grade: B

Virgin Review – 22 Jump Street (and that truly incredible end credits scene)

Movie Review – 22 Jump Street

A Discussion on Buddy Cop Movies