Menage a Blah

Washington City Paper | July 28, 2006
John Tucker (Jesse Metcalfe) is the basketball-team captain and champion lady-killer at a high school where all the students look to be in their 20s. Pretending that he’s not allowed to date during basketball season, John swears his girlfriends to secrecy. That’s how he can juggle a threesome: head cheerleader Heather (Ashanti), vegan sexpot Beth (Sophia Bush), and aspiring valedictorian Carrie (Arielle Kebbel). One day on the volleyball court, John’s semisteady dates happen to start talking and realize that they’ve all been fed the same lines. They turn to an innocent bystander, quiet new-kid-in-school Kate (Brittany Snow) and demand that she become the agent of their retribution: the girl who breaks John’s heart.

So this is another high-school makeover movie, although the crucial transformation is in attitude, not appearance. The setup for Kate’s acceptance of her mission is actually clever: By helping Heather, Beth, and Carrie undermine John, she thinks she’ll get indirect revenge on all the men who have used her perennially heartbroken mom (Jenny McCarthy). But the movie goes all squishy as Kate realizes she really likes John, which is further complicated by the fact that she had already been moving toward a romance with his brother (Penn Badgley). Then the script goes into the spin cycle as the four conspirators keep shaming John, only to find that he has a knack for quick recoveries. These turnabouts don’t make much sense, but they do play to adolescent sex-role anxiety: When the basketball team and cheerleaders travel to an away game, Kate persuades John to sneak into her hotel room, wearing only lacy thong panties. He discovers that he’s actually in the room of the cheerleaders’ mannish chaperone, but he soon turns the humiliation to his favor by convincing everyone that lacy thongs are ideal underwear for playing basketball.

Anyone who’s ever been a high-school boy knows that gambit wouldn’t work, but director Betty Thomas—whose résumé includes Brady Bunch and Howard Stern flicks—has never learned that even comedy requires a certain measure of logic. At least she’s reasonably skillful with a song-heavy score, competently employing a New Wave and emo-punk soundtrack that takes the All-American Rejects’ “Dirty Little Secret” as its theme. Aside from the obligatory flatulence scene, however, there’s not much dirt in this PG-13 sex comedy, and there are certainly no secrets worth keeping. John Tucker Must Die is a Hollywood puppy dog of a satire, whose sappy resolution just proves that there was never really anything at stake.

Washington City Paper

In a city where a great deal of attention is focused on national affairs, Washington City Paper maintains a relentless emphasis on local Washington. City Paper serves as the definitive local guide to cultural and civic life in the District...
More »
Contact for Reprint Rights
  • Market Served: Metropolitan Area
  • Address: 1400 I St. NW, Suite 900, Washington, DC 20005
  • Phone: (202) 332-2100