August 1, 2008

MOVIE REVIEW ; `Teen’ Doc Snacks on Classic `Club’



Rated: PG-13. At Kendall Square and Embassy cinemas and Harvard Square Theatre.

Grade: C-

John Hughes called. He wants his movie back.

For a documentary, Oscar-nominated director Nanette Burstein's "American Teen" is conveniently similar to Hughes' 1985 classic "The Breakfast Club."

Burstein follows five high school seniors in America's heartland, Warsaw, Ind., to reveal their secret world of cliques, heartache and triumph.

Each participant fills a stereotype: Megan Krizmanich, the princess; Colin Clemens, the jock; Jake Tusing, the lonely band geek; Hannah Bailey, the artsy, misunderstood beauty; and Mitch Reinholt, the swoon-worthy student-athlete willing to break clique lines.

Similar to the Brat Pack ensemble, viewers discover there is more to these teens than meets the eye.

Krizmanich is the witchy party girl, but she is also smart and under intense pressure from her father to get accepted to Notre Dame, the family's alma mater. Clemens grabs headlines and glory as star of the school's basketball team, but he also faces enormous pressure at home to turn his athletic abilities into a college scholarship.

Tusing tries to overcome the limits of his social status to find love. His attempts are tireless as well as amusing and heartbreaking. Free-spirited Bailey dreams of escaping to San Francisco after graduation and breaking ties with the small town, but an unexpected romance with popular varsity star Reinholt gives her pause.

However, the format of the documentary makes this unscripted experience feel as real as an episode of "The Hills." Animation is woven into the film, but instead of buffering the transitions between the teens' highs and lows it only infantalizes the documentary and adds confusion.

Something feels contrived, and frankly a bit boring about thisadventure.

The allusions to Hughes' angst-filled masterpiece are perhaps the film's biggest flaw. They cheapen the voice of its subjects.

Don't blame the teens. They did their part by sharing their innermost feelings.

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("American Teen" includes sexual material, adult language, underage drinking and smoking.)

Originally published by By TENLEY WOODMAN.

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