See Not Another Teen Movie and you'll never have to worry about distinguishing between funny and not funny again. Spying on a nubile young slut as she slobbers passionately over the lustful lips of an elderly woman? That's funny. Seeing a teenage girl's dildo slip out of her and fly straight into the birthday cake that her father just baked? Even funnier. Witnessing a clogged toilet explode in a classroom full of students, then hearing the gag punctuated by a loud fart? Hilarious.
Now compare these with jokes in the vintage teen movies that Not Another Teen Movie spoofs. Hearing "Aloha, Mr. Hand!" from Jeff Spicoli? Mildly funny. Learning that Farmer Ted won a bet by stealing Samantha Baker's undies and showing them to his friends? Less funny. Watching Ferris Bueller sing "Danke Schön" in the middle of a parade? Hmmm...
Perhaps the point is that teen movies of the Eighties weren't necessarily supposed to be funny. Most of them were films in which the main objective was to eliminate class distinctions in a nonthreatening way: Poor girl Molly Ringwald dates rich boy Andrew McCarthy; freshman Anthony Michael Hall befriends senior Emilio Estevez; and popular kids and nerds of all kinds come together and make nice in the end. But in the Nineties, the point of teen movies was to eliminate a different kind of class. Somewhere between Scream (1996) and American Pie (1999), the gross-out factor was born.
Not Another Teen Movie tries to combine the two eras of teen flicks, referencing the plots of Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club while packing in as much poop as it can. And I mean that in more than just the literal sense. Without the shock value of its explosive toilets, most of the movie's jokes are, um, fairly shitty. If only Not Another Teen Movie were more akin to Magritte's "This is not a pipe"--the title calling its own visual representation into question, showing that what we're seeing is not actually a teen movie, but a depiction of one.
Don't get me wrong: Self-referential teen movies can be undeniably entertaining in their brainlessness. But the biggest success stories use gross-out scenes to disguise clever points: Scream was effortlessly funny because Wes Craven used lowbrow violence while undermining it with metacommentary about the horror genre. Alas, the same is not true for Not Another Teen Movie, in which parody seems to mean imitating your predecessors rather than commenting on them. Hence, viewers spend none of their time laughing at the structure of a stereotypical teen movie, and all of their time congratulating themselves for catching the lame and obvious references. This dumb movie makes you feel smart for realizing you're dumb. Congratulations!
And maybe the filmmakers can also feel clever for acting so self-aware. I mean, it's a way to safeguard their material from criticism: Don't blame us for making bad jokes--John Hughes wrote 'em! In one scene, the "popular jock" Jake Wyler (Chris Evans) stares at a photo of himself that hangs in the high school's hallway. Moving along to the next picture, he's even more entranced by a photo of himself staring at a photo of himself in the hallway. The utter arrogance of this guilty pleasure is hilariously apt, especially for a film that repeats scenes from Scary Movie and views them glibly as its own. (Thus, Not Another Teen Movie references a movie that references Scream, which itself references an entire history of teen horror. Behold a new genre: the spoof of the parody of the hyper-referential teen movie!)
By the end of Not Another Teen Movie, there were so many levels of mindless irony that I could have cried. And the totally sad thing is: I can no longer tell if I'm being sarcastic when I say that.
Get the Film Club Newsletter
Stay up to date on the best new movies with our critics' latest reviews, interviews and trailers for the films coming to a theater near you each week.