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Published: Friday, 7/28/2006

Movie review: John Tucker Must Die **

BY CHRISTOPHER BORRELLI
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Do you suffer from Invisible-Girl Syndrome? Ask yourself three simple questions: Are you trapped in a movie for teenagers about discovering your true voice? Are you Seventeen-magazine beautiful but nobody sees it because your hair lacks body and you tug at the ends of your sweaters? Are you timid, sort of mousey, and part of the reason is that your mom is like so totally hot?

If any of these apply, I urge you, please - invest in a mirror.

At least in Mean Girls the other girls - including the mean girls - recognized that Lindsay Lohan may not be Queen Bee of her high school but she could be. John Tucker Must Die takes the premise that actress Brittany Snow of Nip/Tuck is so dowdy, she becomes the secret weapon of a trio of teen princesses who want to strike back at philandering John Tucker, the smug captain of all he surveys, quietly dating all of them simultaneously (and enjoying it enormously).

Kate ("the shy girl") is given a nearly unnoticeable makeover by "the smart girl who talks fast" (Arielle Kebbel), "the cheerleader who thinks she's a goddess" (Ashanti), and "the slutty vegan" (scratchy-voiced Sophia Bush, who'll make an ideal Lois Lane some day). The idea is that Kate's siren song will lure Tucker close to the rocks then, dash his heart (and finely manicured ego) mercilessly, the way he broke the hearts of every girl he ever used.

How does one tell these movies apart after awhile? Directed by Betty Thomas (a lively filmmaker of disposable, borderline charmers like Howard Stern's Private Parts and The Brady Bunch Movie), it has characters who constantly remind each other of their characteristics.

In the case of John's soulful brother, for instance, clearly the guy for Kate, his T-shirts come plastered with one-word reminders like "Integrity."

And yet, I wasn't bored.

These girls may do nothing for girls (they realize their obsession with John way too late for us to root them on). But the actresses (except for Snow) are funny, savvy comediennes of the sort who recognize that cast members who enjoy themselves can be infectious for an audience. Even Jesse Metcalfe (of Desperate Housewives) as John is sharp enough to grasp that convincing charmers go easy on the smarm.

So, what do we have here?

The influence of Tina Fey's Mean Girls at work (meaning, the influence of high-school nastiness, but obtusely, not the fine writing to make it memorable). And the influence of the '80s Golden Age of Teen Comedy, which clearly states that an actress in her underwear will be remembered long after you've gone off to college and forgotten to remember to just be yourself.



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