Movie Mom

Fourteen-year-old girls at a sleepover party violate every rule they agreed to. They lie, cheat, vandalize, steal, sneak out of the house and into a bar, order a drink with a man they met on the internet, and sneak into a high school dance by telling the girl taking tickets she has to let them in so they don’t turn into a lonely loser like her. This is not a sequel to last year’s searing thirteen. No, this is supposed to be a touching and light-hearted comedy and these girls are its heroines.

Aiming somewhere between Sixteen Candles and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, this is the story of Julie (Alexa Vega of Spy Kids) and three friends who participate in a scavenger hunt with a significant prize — the favored “power” lunch spot for the whole school year. The losers have to sit by the dump.

Julie and her friends accept the challenge. They have to get a man they meet on the internet to buy them a drink, put their clothes on the mannequins in the Old Navy store window, and steal a security guard’s car decal and the boxers of the boy of Julie’s dreams. Even though Julie promised not to leave the house, she and her friends sneak out, leaving her college drop-out brother to cover for her. At the club, it turns out that the internet mystery date who thinks Julie is a grown-up and a swimsuit model is none other than the girls’ nerdy teacher. Ewww.

Once that gets sorted out and the girls have given him a makeover so that he can pick up a hot chick (ewww again), they are off to finish off the list. This has them climbing on a roof, running away from a security guard and locking him up, hiding in a shower stall while a boy takes off all his clothes and then stealing his boxers, and driving without either permission or license. They cause a lot of damage for which they take no responsibility. And while the movie pits the nice girls against the mean girls, by the end of the movie it is hard to tell them apart.

Vega and the other girls are appealing performers, especially Mikka Boorem as Julie’s best friend and Jessica Simpson-lookalike Sara Paxton as the snooty Mean Girl Stacie. The “why can’t you understand I’m growing up” and “how can I survive if my best friend moves away?” and even the white-out toenail polish elements of the plot will ring familiar with the intended audience, but they may be a little befuddled by seeing the girls dance to a Spice Girls song that was last popular when the girls in the movie were in second grade.

The movie’s irresponsible portrayal of extremely risky and destructive behavior and its distorted notion of grrrl power make it truly disturbing. The exaggerated hijinks are merely unfortunate. But the attempt to portray the girls as smart, caring, and loyal when they mindlessly buy into the mean girls’ game and standards catapults to the movie from unfortunate to reprehensible.

Parents should know that this movie is filled with the kind of parental concerns that are not factored into the MPAA’s rating system and they should think carefully about the film’s appropriateness for its intended age group. As noted above, the main characters sneak out of the house after promising not to. They make a date with a man they met on the internet with the plan of getting him to buy one of them a drink. Boys sneak into Julie’s house and steal underwear. Julie dresses up to look older and they sneak into a club that serves liquor. She orders a drink called “Sex on the Beach.” She hides in a shower and watches the boy she likes undress (from the rear, nudity offscreen) and then she steals the boxer shorts he has just removed. They vandalize store window mannequins and mistreat a security guard, damaging his car and locking him in the store window. One of the girls loses a boyfriend by refusing to “hook up” with him (apparently she bragged to her friends that she had, however). Characters make an overweight girl feel bad about herself (some intentionally, one unintentionally), but despite some half-hearted attempts to suggest otherwise, the girls too often evaluate themselves by whether they are well-regarded by boys. Girls drive without licenses and in one case without permission. Many characters lie, including Julie’s father, who lies to her mother when he causes damage to the ceiling. There is also some bathroom humor and intrusive product placement.

Families who see this movie should talk about why the lunch table location was so important, why Julie and her friends let the other girls determine what the tests would be, and whether Julie will tell her mother the truth about what happened. They should talk about why Julie and Stacie stopped being friends and what parents and young teenagers can do to get used to the idea that kids are growing up. How did the events of the evening make Ren feel differently about returning to college?

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the better Snow Day and The Babysitter’s Club.

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