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movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Jawbreaker

Starring: Rose McGowan, Rebecca Gayheart
Director: Darren Stein
Rated: R
RunTime: 87 Minutes
Release Date: February 1999
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: Julie Benz, Judy Greer, Chad Christ, Carol Kane, Pam Grier, Marilyn Manson

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

Columbia Picture is hitting the high-school and children's market hard this year. Movies that the core teen audience can look forward to include "Dick," about two women students who wander off during a class trip to the White House, meet President Richard Nixon, and end up as the official walkers of his dog, Checkers. Yet another is "Idle Hands," a comedy- horror movie that details the terror and fun that occurs when the Devil possesses the right hand of a clueless 17-year-old slacker. Why should we look forward to these without knowing more about them? Simply because they sound original, an advantage notably missing from the typical offering of the genre. Which brings us to Columbia/TriStar's "Jawbreakers," unoriginal and almost admittedly so, as its writer-director, Darren Stein, heralds his mission to relive the teen movies of his own high-school days and put together a story which is a collage of their themes.

"Jawbreaker" is the sort of film that allows movie buffs to take pride in their ability to recognize scenes appropriated from previous works. You should be able without much difficulty to pick out motifs from "Carrie," "Grease," and "Clueless," and even "Frankenstein" is evoked by Mr. Stein's imagination. But the film--which calls itself a satirical horror- comedy, is not particularly funny, nor does it display much of the standard horror routines. There are no scary, false-alarm scenes of people coming at you from behind but turn out to be friends. Nobody is slashed or beheaded and not a single girl or boy turns into an octopus or even a lowly slug. Though the movie features a strong performance by Rose McGowan in the role of the tightly controlled and attractive Courtney Shayne, it is no more involving or imaginative than fare that can be picked up on the tube--a seven o'clock feature film, perhaps.

The eponymous jawbreaker is its main metaphor. A jawbreaker is a hunk of round candy that's sweet on the outside but, if chewed up, will disjoin your jaw and allow your dentist to put a down payment on a new Porsche. Director Stein aims to portray the most popular girl in school as one who is easy to look out but watch out: she has nerves of steel and will have you for breakfast with her diet-conscious fat-free yogurt toasted English. (In this regard, the jawbreaker is the diametrical opposite of the sabra, or prickly pear, which is tough as nails on the outside but dulcet within.)

The story centers on Courtney (Rose McGowan), a high- school senior who would be a shoo-in for prom queen in the upcoming dance were it not for the thoroughly sweet and beautiful Liz Purr (Charlotte Roldan), who is considered the cat's meow. Courtney conspires with her dense friend Marcie Fox (Julie Benz--who looks like a young Sally Kellerman) and her hesitant pal Julie (Rebecca Gayheart) to kidnap Liz on her 17th birthday and stuff her with pancakes. She and her pals break into Liz's home, stuff a jawbreaker into her mouth, gag her, and pile her into the trunk of a car, but when they open the back of the auto after arriving at the pancake house, they discover that Liz is dead of asphyxiation. When the wallflowerish school nerd, Fern Mayo (Judy Evans Greer) Greer), catches the trio trying to make Liz appear the victim of a rape-murderer, she is bribed into silence by a beauty makeover, which transforms her into a virtual princess named Vylette.

Customs of the high-school girls are ribbed together with the character of the principal and some teachers, however ineffectively. A quick scene of the cooking class (where one girl breaks open a bloody egg described by an onlooker as a stillborn) is not amusing and of anatomy class hardly rib- tickling. As principal Miss Sherman, Carol Kane is not in the same class as her counterpart in "Grease." While Courtney-- who is to meet her comeuppance at the school prom-- thankfully does not possess the telekinetic powers whose excesses sank both the movie and the Broadway musical "Carrie," her character displays not even a modicum of originality. Nor does her dialogue contain any of the wit that can easily be found in a humdrum tale by Stephen King. You can be beautiful and sweet, you can be gorgeous and a bitch. And the class caterpillar can turn into a vain butterfly. But then we always knew that.

Copyright 1999 Harvey Karten

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