DATEWORTHY? NO! This high-school comedy about two female brainiac best friends who decide to cram the four years of partying and sex, drugs and drinking they missed into one epic night before graduation has some great young actors and occasionally some fresh twists on the genre, but overall it’s a full-speed ride into the worst behavior imaginable.
Ever since John Hughes quit making his high school classics (“The Breakfast Club,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Sixteen Candles,” “Weird Science”) at the end of the 1980s, Hollywood has struggled to make teen movies that blend his mix of humor, heart and often a good message. Judd Apatow tried with “Superbad,” but that movie was way more raunchy than Hughes’ works en route to a solid moral lesson in the end.
But the new movie “Booksmart” is trying to grab attention by putting a female-led twist on the genre. Unfortunately, it’s really just trying to outdo the guy-oriented flicks that have come before it, and further pushes teen movies and any attempt at morals down the drain.
Two social outcasts believe that acceptance lies in bad behavior
The movie follows Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever), lifelong best friends who have spent their entire four years of high school avoiding any semblance of partying or a social life besides each other. On the day before graduation, Molly overhears some classmates saying they wish they could have gotten to know her or have sex with her, and realizes that these classmates have made it into Ivy League schools too despite the fact they have fully indulged in partying throughout high school.
Furious that she has forced herself to miss out on everything her peers find fun in life, Molly challenges Amy to go to the biggest graduation party of the entire school that night. As they frantically wind up at two wrong addresses – an empty yacht where the richest geek in class tries and fails to throw a bash, and a hilariously bizarre murder mystery party thrown by the theatre club – the girls get ever more desperate to get to the real party they have no address for but are watching unfold epically in real-time streaming.
PC dialogue and messages overwhelm the film throughout, showing a generation that’s been brainwashed in addition to fairly graphic teen lesbian sex
When they finally get to the right place, events escalate in some pretty wild and inventive ways. But the movie also takes its portrayal of teen partying and the sadly PC mindsets of brainwashed millennials to new extremes that might leave viewers wondering how low movies can go.
In the film’s most vile scene, Amy – who came out as a lesbian two years before but has never acted on that inclination – winds up having a sexual encounter on the floor of the house party’s bathroom with a girl she just learned is also lesbian. The scene is portrayed for full sensuality, with slow passionate kisses and sensual music, until Amy is told that she’s doing the position wrong and in her mortification over the mistake, projectile vomits on the other girl. Rest assured, this movie’s determination to make a teen lesbian relationship happen results in the girls exchanging numbers the next day.
Past popular teen movies like John Hughes’ films, or the amoral “American Pie” trilogy, have glorified teen sex, alcohol and marijuana usage to a milder extent as well. But in the Hughes films, there were lessons to be learned and ultimately, pure or relatively pure love won out.
The same goes for “Superbad,” in which two teen male nerds try to lose their virginity amid a wild night of partying yet find themselves waking up without female companionship and wind up starting a proper courtship with girls they truly find interesting.
“Booksmart” not only flips the genders on “Superbad” by making its two main protagonists teenage girls, but largely focuses on not only shredding the envelope of acceptable behavior but also making it seem like all basic values have gone down the drain. It also makes an insidious point throughout of having the lead girls spout PC phrases and talking points, further shoving an obvious agenda upon their intended teen viewing audience.
Mocked Christians and false feminism mar the movie further
Among these running gags are Amy’s parents, who are portrayed as cluelessly happy Christians who also defy logic by not only embracing what they wrongly assume is a lesbian relationship between their daughter and Molly, but encouraging it.
Most maddening of all is the fact that since “Booksmart” is directed and written by women, it is being sold to impressionable young minds as a strongly feminist movie. Yet when the lead girls’ transformation in the movie is to simply indulge in every base instinct they can find, it’s obvious that there’s a more insidious agenda at play here in which empowerment is defined by immorality.
Executive producers Will Ferrell and Adam McKay have built a lengthy list of box office successes that are often crass but usually stay within PG-13 boundaries. But their biggest flop to date came in producing a barely-seen movie called “The Virginity Hit” that followed four teenage boys trying to lose their virginity while being videotaped by the others, before taking a “hit” from a marijuana bong to celebrate their sexual conquests.
One would think that that pair of producers, and the studios that finance them, would have learned a lesson from the experience of making an extremely immoral topic the basis of a teen movie. But apparently not.
The actors throughout “Booksmart” deliver energetic performances that occasionally draw laughs and show promise for future stardom. But aside from the acting and very sporadic flashes of true wit, it’s one movie that all viewers would be smart to avoid.
Carl Kozlowski is a Catholic comedian, film reviewer, and journalist who is also the founder and co-owner of the podcast station www.radiotitans.com in Los Angeles. He reviews movies for the Catholic News Agency as well as the Christian site Movieguide.org, but has also worked with secular outlets including the Pasadena Weekly, Chicago Tribune and Esquire. He has also produced and hosted comedy shows for the LA Catholic Archdiocese's charities and performed at some of the nation's top clubs and with top comics including Dane Cook and Dave Chappelle. He strives to find the way to work with both Christian and secular audiences in all his career paths.