John Tucker Must Die

John Tucker Must Die


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

John Tucker - captain of the basketball team - is the most popular guy in school. So popular that he's won the hearts of head cheerleader Heather, animal rights campaigner Beth and student television chief Carrie, and he's managing to date each of them without the others knowing. Of course, this can't go on forever, and when the girls find out their first instinct is to attack each other, prompting a violent and borderline pornographic gym class showdown. But new girl Kate has seen this sort of thing before, having watched her mother go through a series of dead end relationships, and she has one thing to say to them: don't get mad, get even. Kate is thrilled to have the girls' respect, but when she finds herself a part of their vengeful plan she gradually realises that she's out of her depth.

Though full of characters and behaviour which most adult viewers will find insufferable, John Tucker Must Die is essentially a well crafted, intelligently structured film, considerably more complex than it looks on the surface. It's aggressive and sexy enough to appeal to kids like its central characters before undermining many of their assumptions. Over the course of a conventional story it deftly pulls apart the boy versus girl conventions of the genre and questions adolescent assumptions about masculinity and femininity. As John Tucker, Jesse Metcalf gives a surprisingly subtle performance, easily playing the confident sporting hero yet also undeniably human. It is this humanity, and Kate's reaction to it, which gradually expose the problems with the girls' plot to see his heart broken as theirs have been, leading to some unexpected shifts in the way the characters relate to one another.

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The biggest problem with John Tucker Must Die is that it still feels obliged to pack in the teen movie cliches and it's not quite clever enough to get away with them all. The party at the end is just too overblown to make sense, and the response of the other girls to Kate's declarations seems entirely out of character. Having built up considerable emotional tension, the film doesn't know how to release it effectively. The conspirators are two dimensional throughout, which works in scenes of fast talking fun but doesn't allow for any satisfactory character development. As Kate, on the other hand, Brittany Snow never seems sufficiently sure of herself to convince as a girl who could attract such attention, even after the coaching the girls give her. Yet minor characters work well throughout, from Kate's anxious mother who simply wants her to be herself to the bemused goths watching the popular girls scream at each other. These outsider elements help to put the teen drama in perspective even for teen viewers.

If what you want is boys, girls, glamour, fashion and giggles, John Tucker Must Die will give you all that and more. If what you want is simply a bit of Saturday night entertainment which won't annoy you too much, you could still do a lot worse than this.

Reviewed on: 07 Sep 2006
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John Tucker Must Die packshot
A group of girls plot revenge on the guy who's been cheating on them.
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Director: Betty Thomas

Writer: Jeff Lowell

Starring: Jesse Metcalfe, Brittany Snow, Ashanti, Sophia Bush, Arielle Kebbel, Penn Badgley, Jenny McCarthy, Fatso-Fasano, Kevin McNulty, Patricia Drake, Jeffrey Ballard

Year: 2006

Runtime: 89 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: USA


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