American Teen

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american teenThe movie poster for this is a parody of the John Hughes teen classic The Breakfast Club. The movie is a reminder on how much better a well-written teen comedy like that or Fast Times at Ridgemont High really is. That’s because at the end of the day, the movie isn’t really all that interesting.

Some how, they got permission to go to Indiana and film five students finishing their senior year of high school. Since it’s basketball that the Hoosiers love, we get to meet star player Colin. He seems smart enough, and we’re intrigued by his quest to snag a college scholarship. Since it’s their senior year, we hear a lot of talk about the future.

If there’s a jock, there has to be a geek. That would be Jake. He’s in the marching band (I had many friends in the marching band at Mira Mesa High; only a handful were nerds). The braces and acne don’t help, and neither does the pity party he often throws for himself in a search for a girlfriend.

Hannah is the queen bee. She lives with her grandmother because her mom is a bit of a nut-job. She has a male best friend, and keeps falling for the wrong guys.

There’s a rich girl named Megan. You don’t spell Megan without “m-e-a-n” and boy is she.

It’s fun to watch a few of the dates, and think back to the experiences you had in high school. We were all so nervous, and you get nervous watching these kids, as well as thinking about how if you knew then what you know now.

No documentary like this would be complete without a few parents getting involved. That means we get to see the dad who’s an Elvis impersonator. Thank you very much.

Aside from it not being as interesting as it could be, you often wonder how much of this is staged. You have to realize at some point, they didn’t just happen to have cameras catch all this stuff. That’s when you go through those series of questions in your head, like when you find yourself watching True Life or The Real World on MTV on a Saturday afternoon. You know you should be out doing something fun, and instead you’re watching teenagers – and they’re doing stuff that’s either staged, or that they wouldn’t normally do if the cameras weren’t present. I’m guessing the spin the bottle we witness was taken up a few notches with these kids knowing the more outrageous stunts would probably be the ones that weren’t left on the cutting room floor.

I’ll never forget the column I read in TV Guide years ago. One of their writers was talking about his experience on the show Blind Date. He writes about how the producers were telling him how close to walk beside his date, encouraging things like hugs and kisses, and at one point had them get out of the car five different times.

You can forgive all that if you really like the documentary. It was merely an average time at the movie. It gives us interesting and likable kids, in very predictable circumstances.

I’m giving it a C+.

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