July 27, 2006

“John Tucker Must Die” — great title, bad movie

By Kirk Honeycutt

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Despite a bold and
promising title, "John Tucker Must Die" lacks the courage of
its convictions.

The teenage girls at the center of a revenge plot against a
high school lothario are too unimaginative or maybe just too
nice for the job. Writer Jeff Lowell and director Betty Thomas
should have screened "Mean Girls" or "Heathers" if they wanted
to see how these things can be done with real bite. Because
instead of mean girls, they give us mild girls.

Young females are the clear target audience. With an
attractive though underutilized cast, "John Tucker" should open
with average or above-average numbers as counterprogramming to
"Miami Vice" and "The Ant Bully."

The film begins with two seemingly unrelated situations. In
one, Kate (Brittany Snow) suffers from "invisibility." Her
single mom (Jenny McCarthy) moves to a new town every time a
man dumps her -- which apparently is often -- so that Kate is
the perennial anonymous newcomer at every school. She comes and
goes without a ripple.

The other situation revolves around the amorous exploits of
one John Tucker (Jesse Metcalfe, Eva Longoria's boy toy on
"Desperate Housewives"). Rich, handsome and smooth-talking, the
basketball star has his pick of the hottest girls in school.
And he usually picks them in threes. Because he is careful to
select his girlfriends from different school cliques, no one is
any the wiser to his serial dating.

Then his current trio -- head cheerleader Heather
(recording star Ashanti), school reporter Carrie (Arielle
Kebbel) and vegan fast girl Beth (Sophia Bush) -- all wind up
in detention with our Kate. A subsequent exchange of
information among these three results in the declaration that
is the movie's title. But they only want John Tucker to die of

This is where Kate comes in. Having watched her mom date
one John Tucker after another, she knows his type backward and
forward. The trouble is, all her schemes to bring John down

Now desperate, the trio persuades Kate to let them turn her
into John Tucker's dream girl. They certainly know enough about
his tastes and moves to do so. Their plan is for Kate to get
John to fall for her, then kick him off her love boat with a
concrete life jacket.

Here the movie turns into standard-issue teen romance,
albeit one in which the girl has a tiny camera clipped to a bra
strap so her advisers can monitor and record every stage of the
romance. And here, too, the blandness of the characters is
telling. John is so obvious and almost innocent in his serial
dating that you wonder why anyone cares. You get what you buy
into. And Kate is essentially too nice, never really that
determined to crush this guy despite all her mother's
disappointments in love. You never believe her capable of going
through with the scheme.

The film's timidity is best expressed in a shot of two
girls kissing in a car that is being exploited in the trailer.
In the context of the movie, the scene is a hit-and-run, over
so fast you may miss it. If you're going to go there, then go

Meanwhile, the filmmakers seem far too removed from the
world of high school and social cliques to draw a convincing
portrait of either. The twentysomething actors, besides not
looking right, don't really have roles based in any reality.
About as close as anyone comes is Penn Badgley, who plays
John's younger brother Scott, who takes a fumbling, hesitant
liking to Kate.

Production values on this Canadian-based production are


John Tucker: Jesse Metcalfe

Kate: Brittany Snow

Heather: Ashanti

Beth: Sophia Bush

Carrie: Arielle Kebbel

Scott: Penn Badgley

Lori: Jenny McCarthy

Director: Betty Thomas; Screenwriter: Jeff Lowell;
Producers: Bob Cooper, Michael Birnbaum; Executive producers:
Karen Lunder, Marc S. Fischer; Director of photography: Anthony
B. Richmond; Production designer: Marcia Hinds; Music: Richard
Gibbs; Costumes: Alexandra Welker; Editor: Matt Friedman.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter