John Tucker Must Die (2006)

(On TV, September 2015) What’s frustrating about John Tucker Must Die isn’t as much that it has long stretches that are undistinguishable from every other high-school romantic comedy out there; it’s the other moments, those who escape mediocrity and suggest that there was a much better film to be made from it.  The beginning is certainly promising, as our rather sympathetic narrator quickly brings us up to speed with her life (free of attachments, thanks to her mom’s string of boyfriends and her habit of running away at the end of every relationship) and the curious case of John Tucker, high-school philanderer.  It’s a breezy, confident beginning and it sets up something a bit different from the usual high-school romantic comedies, as three embittered ex-girlfriends vow to (figuratively) kill John Tucker.  Their first attempts backfire, to further unexpected hilarity, but then the plot takes an extremely familiar turn midway through, as we’re back in a “fake love leads to real love” plot.  The film loses a lot of steam as it moves through the familiar scenes of that kind of story.  Occasionally, a few good lines or unusual choices remind us that while the film might have been initially aiming for a Heathers-grade take on teenage romance films, it ended up in far more mediocre territory.  While Brittany Snow isn’t too bad in the lead role, and director Betty Thomas does her best to spruce up increasingly ordinary material, John Tucker Must Die is a good case of failed ambitions in a movie that doesn’t get any better as it runs along.  

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