As the lights were dimmed in the theatre, I couldn’t believe I was actually going to a showing of She’s Out of My League. It just looked like another awful teen comedy (opening this weekend at theatres everywhere).
Early on I realized this wasn’t just another teen comedy. Just as Adventureland surprised me last year, this was also written in a clever way, with its heart in the right place.
The Academy Awards did a loving tribute to John Hughes, the godfather of the teen comedy. This is a movie that has him smiling in his grave.
Early on, we see that usual cliché movie character – the boss that is an incompetent jerk. To pull off that type of character believably, it has to be done the way Lumbergh was in Office Space; although, that’s considered one of the best comedies ever made.
So I gave it a pass when the boss sexually harassed a female airline passenger, and appeared to be a guy that wouldn’t have had his job more than a week.
I immediately liked the cast of characters all assembled to play the co-workers and friends of the nerdy Jay Baruchel. Again, bringing up John Hughes name – Baruchel reminded me of Duckie from Pretty in Pink. The big difference being that Duckie had some humor and hipness (remember him lip-synching Otis Redding?). I think Baruchel’s character should’ve been given a few more witty lines, to show us just how someone that’s a 5 might’ve gotten a 10 to stay interested in him.
The scene that shows the friends discussing where each of them was on that 1 to 10 scale, along with the things that lower or higher your number, was hysterical. That single scene was funnier than anything in He’s Just Not That Into You.
I think these teen comedies really need to give a rest to the scenes of guys preparing for their dates with a Norelco (and not shaving their face). It’s become tired joke.
Another scene involving an excitable boy (Warren Zevon reference intended) and a dog, gets even grosser than the hair gel scene in There’s Something About Mary.
Alice Eve, a British actress who looks like a prettier Reese Witherspoon, is perfectly cast as the love interest. And her character is written perfectly. There’s not an ounce of attitude in her, which really is needed for her to be believable, and more importantly – likable to the audience.
As is the case with these teen comedies, you’re going to have the cast rounded out with the cliché characters – the crazy ex-girlfriend, dim-witted parents, idiotic brothers, and a crappy car to drive around in. You’ll think one of them is exactly like Zooey Deschanel from a few films, another is like a Jason Lee/Napoleon Dynamite hybrid who thinks he knows everything, and has a few deep, dark secrets of his own (but boy does he rock out in his Hall & Oates tribute band).
The reason this all works, is because it’s clever with those characters. An older brother does a Chris Tucker impression that’s bizarre. Another punches Baruchel and insists they play a hockey game in the basement. They all make fun of him every chance they get.
The final scene in the airport goes downhill fast, and it had me wishing O.J. Simpson would join in the wild chase (that’s the second reference only older folks will get).
But by the end of the film, it’s like a flight you were pleasantly surprised on. There were no crying babies, the meal wasn’t half-bad, no fat guy sat in the seat next to you, and the in-flight film didn’t star Ashton Kutcher.
There were enough scenes, like the gang sitting on a moving luggage carousel discussing the meaning of life, that remind you what a good, intelligent teen comedy can be.
On a teen movie grading curve, this gets a B-.