But the goofily-titled, predictable, and mildly charming John Tucker Must Die is all about the golden child getting his comeuppance. John, played by an endearing (if vacuous) Jesse Metcalfe, is the star of the basketball team and a chronic womanizer. He's got a system down that keeps him in as many open arms as possible, wherein he simultaneously dates hotties from rival cliques, ones who would never deign to speak to one another long enough to dish secrets, and then claims to each that he's not allowed to date during the basketball season. But three of them - shallow head cheerleader Heather (Ashanti), ditsy vegan activist Beth (Sophia Bush), and tightly-wound, overachieving Carrie (Arielle Kebbel) - figure it out. And super-sweet, casual observer Kate (Brittany Snow) inspires them to go the way of women scorned and get themselves some revenge.
It kicks off pretty well, as the first attempts at vengeance are overly elaborate and quite entertaining - Metcalfe plays a good object of mockery, and is particularly amusing as a moody, over-estrogened girly-man. Ultimately, though, the movie heads for the safe haven of tried-and-tested teen movie tropes and has the three girls team up to work a little Pygmalion on the perpetually overlooked Kate, to make John fall for her so that she can introduce him to the woes of a broken heart.
There are complications, of course, and they are precisely what you expect: Kate gets a little too moony over what is supposed to be her prey; her fake relationship with John starts putting a crimp in what should be her real relationship with a sweet, slightly doofy emo boy (Penn Badgley), who also happens to be John's younger brother; and she (not to mention us) are subjected to far too many serious discussions about how deeply Kate has strained from her true character, now that her newfound popularity and Machiavellian plans have gone to her head.
But this is a cheesy teen move we're talking about here. John Tucker Must Die is not as fresh as, say Mean Girls, or offering any revisionist twists on the standard fare, but it also has a number of amusing or fun moments that make it, if not stellar, then at least decently entertaining. The actors are all perfectly capable, especially since the characters are not expected to extend very far past the most basic of clichés, and they are certainly all good-looking enough to maintain a constant parade of pretty.
There are certain parts that strike a rather discordant note, such as the fact that the reason Kate agrees to be a pawn in the other girls' plans is the fact that she desperately wants people to like her, so her puppy-like eagerness in the face of being, finally, noticed is pretty sad. Kate is likely supposed to be sweet and endearing and a little spunky, but more often than not, she's just a little depressing. It's also pretty twee, the way life lessons such as "It's not OK to lie to a girl to get into her pants" are delivered with a straight face.
Again, though, it's a very slight teen romp, so the fact that so much is predictable is pretty expected. And since it's aiming at those packs of teen girls heading to the multiplex on a Friday night, John Tucker Must Die will likely lock onto them like a laser beam.
Three cheers for John!
Run time: 89 mins
In Theaters: Friday 28th July 2006
Box Office USA: $40.9M
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Production compaines: Major Studio Partners, John US Productions, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Landscape Entertainment, Dune Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 26%
Fresh: 24 Rotten: 69
IMDB: 5.7 / 10
Director: Betty Thomas
Screenwriter: Jeff Lowell
Starring: Jesse Metcalfe as John Tucker, Brittany Snow as Kate, Sophia Bush as Beth, Arielle Kebbel as Carrie, Ashanti as Heather, Penn Badgley as Scott, Jenny McCarthy as Lori, Kevin McNulty as Basketball Coach, Taylor Kitsch as Justin
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