Sunday, May 8, 2011

My TOP 10 Favourite High School Teen Movies!

As cheesy as they are, I love Hollywood high school comedies. They are a constant reminder of how similar we are to our American counterparts. Of course, at school, our teachers would constantly remind us of the dangers of western culture, or 'budaya barat' or 'budaya kuning' as they would call them. I remember using this as a main point in almost every Bahasa Malaysia essay I wrote.

"Senario hari ini memperlihatkan belia zaman sekarang yang kian terpengaruh dengan budaya barat yang yang merebak dalam kalangan generasi muda kita akibat sikap alpa media massa..."

This was one of my favourite lines. Almost all my essays had it in them. But this was just for school. Back home, my siblings and I lived and breathed high school movies! Here are my top 10 favourite high school teen comedies.

10. She's All That

What makes this movie work it that is so, extremely predictable actually. Prinze is the popular jock at school. Sadly, he just got dumped by his head cheerleader girlfriend (yes... first time in my life... I'm watching a teen flick about a jock coupled up with a cheerleader... how rare!). In order to defend his ego, and prove his popularity, he accepts a bet from his best friend that he can make any girl prom queen. The friend selects Rachael Leigh Cook, the most antisocial girl at school. One can tell she is super hot despite the dorky glasses and weird outfits. And no, he does not fall in love with her, the bet is never exposed, the girl never gets mad, the movie does not end at prom, and there is no happy ending.

Are you kidding me? OF COURSE there was all those stuff in the movie, which was why teenagers back in the late nineties loved it. As cheesy as it is, it is one of the most popular high school teen romantic comedies of its decade. I suppose it was also what that brought Paul Walker, who plays the bad boy, to fame.

9. She's The Man

The movie is based on Shakespeare's Twelve Night, which does not necessarily mean it is a thought-provoking movie of anything. Sure it is fast-paced and absolutely hilarious. It also constantly teases teenagers' hormone levels with lots of teen humor which is suitable for all ages of course.

The film is about Viola (Amanda Bynes) who pretends to be her twin brother and attends his school as him in order to join the boys soccer team. Almost every boy and girl stereotype is poked fun at with the uttermost appealing manner. Bynes looks gorgeous, and it is almost painfully hilarious to see pretending to be a guy. But I dare say the director must have somewhat observed closely, or even did some research on all the typical gender jokes that can make teens laugh.

8. High School Musical 3: Senior Year

Looking back now, I have almost no clue why I liked this movie franchise back in secondary school. All I can think about is the super-catchy songs, and of course, the super talented, not to mention super funny Ashley Tisdale. The sun kissed students of East High, Albuquerque are back for their senior year. They decide to put up a musical to represent all that they're going through in their years in high school.

Come to think of it, I can totally relate to the pressure: Troy (Zac Efron) faces in deciding which college to go to. Meanwhile, his girlfriend Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens) is going to Yale University, which will keep them apart. Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale) and her twin, Ryan (Lucas Gabreel), are competing for a scholarship to Juliard.

Just thinking about HSM films reminds us of all the crap we loved when we were much younger fans of Hollywood pop culture. I suppose we tend to grow more cynical as we get older criticizing everything that our younger siblings and cousins love, like Justin Bieber, The Jonas Brothers, Camp Rock, and all those stuff. What makes this movie work is the very essence of its cheesiness. The lovable characters and lovely songs help too.

It sure is awkward to think that in the world of Disney films, everyone is so innocent. There is no reference to sexuality at all. In the world of more mature teen flicks like One Tree Hill, Glee and the likes, there is CONSTANT reference to things like that. So much confusion....

7. Ten Things I Hate About You

Here is another teen flick based on another one of Shakespeare's great works - Taming The Shrew. Julia Stiles is one of Hollywood's most underrated actresses. She plays a horrible shrew, which is a compliment. This film may seem seem more like a "chick flick", but the male main character gets as much screen space as his female counterpart. So I suppose in an industry where most teen rom-coms cater for female fandome, this one definitely stands out! The with "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" ballad scene might be a reference to 80s teen flicks. But it is one of the cutest scenes ever! Don't get your hopes too high because the ending is predictable, but it works with the tone of the film.
6. Drive Me Crazy

I honestly have not heard of this film before, until they showed it on TV3 a few years back. I assumed I have watched every teen flick that Hollywood has ever made. But it turns out that this one was also made in the 90s, which is explainable why I missed it - because I was not exactly a teen yet!

Let me start by saying this film is not exactly original, but it's plot is definitely different from your regular cheesy teen flicks. So Melissa Joan Hart (from Sabrina The Teenage Witch) plays a scheming teen socialite, whose life practically revolves around planning the school's dance function. Both she and her next door neighbour and childhood former best friend Chase (Adrian Grenier) get dumped by their respective boy/girlfriends. In order to shock everyone, make their exes jealous, and get all the attention, they two pretend to be an item, only to realize they had always been in love with each other since they were kids.

It is a typical teen high-school drama, with jocks vs. geeks, pivotal parties and the main characters getting together in the end. But you have to give it credit for playing around with the idea of the characters having their own lives outside school. That was, in a way or so, something different. Not to mention this film does not try too hard to be funny. It genuinely is.

5. Boy vs. Girl

For a film marketed as a high school teen flick, it actually has some emotion to it. It may not appeal to you since one might assume it merely is a romantic version of Freaky Friday. It is! But remember how good that movie was? Well, this one is much better. It is not a B-movie despite not having any A-stars, but I found it really funny. The story may seem simple: Boy and girl hate each other, end up swapping bodies, forced to deal with their situation, and end up falling in love. This is undoubtedly one of the most underrated teen flicks of all time.
The teen lifestyle is exaggerated in a way, but you can forgive that once you discover how funny the movie actually is. The leads; Kevin Zegers and Samaire Armstrong are generally not as popular as stars with a more prominent teen fan base

4. A Cinderella Story

Let me start by saying this movie is as cheesy as it gets! It is a retelling of the old classic fairy tale with the modern day twist But the fact that it is based on a fairy tale we all grew up with definitely has to make it amazing right? Truth be told, it is really funny and with a surprising emount of enotional depth as well.
I may be a little bias since Hilary Duff is one of my favorite actresses and singers to date. Her role as Sam, the Cinderella of the story actually makes you feel the sadness and emptiness in her soul. Given more space, she could have given a more edgier side to the role than the justice she gave to the character of Lizzie McGuire. So it is a chick lit based on a fairy tale, which means it has 'predictable ending' written all over it.
If you think the character of Sam has some resemblance to Lizzie McGuire, then you would know that Chad Micheal Murray's role as Austin is almost similar to that of Lucas Scott. This actually allows both our leads to play their characters almost effortlessly. I dare say this film does justice to both its genre and the fairy tale.

3. Easy A

In a world where the genre of teen flicks have become almost annoyingly cheesy and overly overrated, here is one movie that has an authentically strong story with an absolutely realistic, and not to mention lovable character. "Easy A" is a heartwarming throwback to teen flicks of the 80s.

Emma Stone plays Olive, a girl that teenagers today can watch and say, "Hey! I know a girl like that in real life!" She is someone whose feeling you can relate to through her voice-overs. She shines with her sarcasm and empathy for others. Olive's best friend misunderstands that Molly had lost her virginity. The rumour spreads around their high school, and everyone at school starts viewing her differently. Marianne (Amanda Bynes) the school's moral police constantly humiliates Olive to improve her own image, while boys make up stories that they had slept with Olive just so they can seem more cool in order to gain respect, in return of some gifts that they give Olive of course.

Most teen flicks just get some inexperienced junior artistes to play the role of the adults. But in this film, Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci are fun to watch as Olive's comical and unorthodox parents; while Thomas Haden Church and Lisa Kudrow as the cool teachers are amazing too.

The humour will definitely capture your attention, as much as the realism to the characters' portrayal will. Not much details has been placed on the romance side of the film, which is what makes it different. But the sympathy that you would feel for Olive would make up for that, I ensure you.

2. The Princess Diaries

This movie is responsible for making Anne Hathaway the star she is today. She was not that big of a star when she started out in this movie. But you cannot avoid from noticing this girl is not only a great actress, but a good comedian as well.

Mia, as her character is called in the movie, is not at all your normal high school student. She is probably the most anti-social student at her school, alongside her best friend Lily and their clique. One day, a wealthy and well-respected, but slightly status conscious queen of a small European city-state called Genovia comes to San Francisco and claims to be her grandmother! Not only that, Mia is in line for the throne and will succeed her grandmother when she is 21!

What would you do if you were in Mia's situation? And that is exactly what this poor creature of God does. She panics big time! At one hand she tries to make her family happy by accepting her role as a royal. On the other hand, she feels guilty for betraying her friends by taking up a life of a socialite, while they have ambitions of making the world a better place. Some even try to take advantage of her. The school bully, played nicely by Mandy Moore, who is also head cheerleader is super jealous and frames her to the paparazzi. The school's hunky jock pretends to like her too. All this is portrayed very realistically but with lots of humour as well.

The ending is not predictable. But it is a happy one, true to its nature as a Disney movie. This, and its sequel, are the first teen flicks which my parents actually like and love watching over and over again, which was quite a surprise to me. And yes, the reason this film is number two on my list is because it is one of the least cheesy teen flicks I have ever watched.

1. Mean Girls

For a film that stays true to the conventional formula of a usual teen flick, this film exceeds our expectations.

Lindsay does a great job as Cady. After Anne Hathaway, Raven Symone and Lea Michelle, Miss Lohan is one of the best comic actresses of our generation. You will find it easy to understand her character. Despite being super hot, she can really act. You might even forget that in real life, this poor girl has lots of issues.

Tina Fey, in her film debut does a good job too. But of course, you cannot have a teen flick entitled Mean Girls without having any mean and beautiful cheerleader! Here we have Regina (Rachel McAdams), Gretchen (Lacey Chabert) and Karen (Amanda Seyfried). Miss McAdams is mostly seen as a very virtuous character, in her other movies at least. Here, she almost steals the limelight from Miss Lohan, as she goes down in history as one of the most meanest, malicious, power mad high school tyrant ever seen in Hollywood, but with a tiny good spot in her heart.

You might even recognize Amanda Seyfried (who would later star in Mamma Mia and gain worldwide) who is Rachel McAdams dumb, blonde sidekick in this film.

So Lindsay is in a normal American high school for the first time in her life, since she use to be home schooled while her parents worked at exotic locations all around the world since her childhood. When she gets here, she becomes friendly with the school's misfits. But the Mean Girls, or 'plastic' as they are referred to, instantly notice her star potential and make her one of them. The question whether she forgets her true friends or not, in a journey of self discovery, makes up the rest of the story.

Many films claim to be dramedies, but they are either straightforward comedies or dramas, with a little bit of humour thrown in here and there. But this one, though not marketed as one, seems to fit the term 'dramedy' well. It is downright funny, which is essential for a teen flick, but at the same time true to the emotional turmoils of the main characters. This would seem more like the movie version of the Lizzie McGuire (minus the cartoonized Lizzie parts) and GLEE (minus the songs) series combined.

A must watch for teen flick lovers.