By Philip Murphy
“Do you know what happens to girls who start high school with no best friend, no boyfriend and no social standing?” They are banished to the losers’ lunch spot by the garbage cans!
Such are the fears of eighth-grader, Julie (Alexa Vega) when she learns that her best friend Hannah (Mika Boorem) is moving away and won’t be going to high school with her in the fall. What seems like the end of the world to Julie turns into a night to remember, when Hannah and two other good friends, Farrah and Yancy, come over for a sleepover at Julie’s to celebrate the end of junior high.
When these not-so-cool girls are challenged to an all-night scavenger hunt by the “most popular” girls in their school, Julie wants to pass, but Hannah insists that they take the challenge. The winners will get the cool high school lunch spot by the fountain, while the losers will eat in purgatory over by the dumpsters. Realizing that they’re facing four years of social squalor, Julie and her pals are highly motivated, while her former best friend Staci (Sara Paxton) and her popular pals figure they’ve got the prize in the bag.
Needless to say, the challenges of the evening – sneaking out of the house, borrowing a parent’s car, meeting a date at a nightclub, redressing some mannequins in a store window, as well as stealing a pair of boxer shorts from the cutest guy in town, and capturing the crown of the king or queen at the high school dance – don’t go as planned.
This is a sweet and silly comedy with a few poignant moments that girls up to about 14 will enjoy. Despite sneaking out after dark, and some adolescent misbehavior, the film has a good message about growing up and facing your fears that is particularly important for girls. Plus the friendship between the less-than-cool girls, especially Julie and Hannah, is touching and admirable. And there’s a nice moment between Julie and her controlling mother (Jane Lynch), who finally realizes that her little girl is not so little anymore.
Unfortunately, all the guys in the picture – Julie’s dad and brother, her teacher, some skate-boarding halfwits and a crazed security patrol officer – are all portrayed either as morons, creeps (in the case of Staci’s erstwhile “boyfriend”) or dreamboats as in Julie’s hunky high school heartthrob. Clearly, the intent was for comic relief, but a little more wit and a lot less stupidity would have made the males more interesting and enhanced the comedy, too. Still, girls are subjected to such stereotyping all the time in movies, so maybe it’s only fair that the shoe is on the other foot in this one. Besides, girls may find this more amusing and true to life than I did.
The film is rated PG for some “thematic elements involving teen dating, some sensuality and language.”
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