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DVD Review: John Tucker Must Die Lifts Valentine’s Blues

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"This is for every girl everywhere who has ever been lied to.”

So says one of John Tucker's wronged girlfriends. She is trying to convince Kate, the unlikely heroine of the movie, that John Tucker has to go down. The man in question is your typical American ideal of a college stud — sports hero, tall, black hair, an "Adonis". His girlfriends are all suspiciously stereotypical too. We have, in no particular order, the slightly nerdy but nonetheless bright and pretty news reporter, Carrie (Arielle Kebbel), the head cheerleader who exudes coolness, Heather (Ashanti), and the ethically concerned animal rights activist, Beth (Sophia Bush). Last but no means least is Kate (Brittany Snow) herself, the loveable loser who is overshadowed by her gorgeous but neurotic mum.

Rewind. You have to set aside all that to appreciate the film. Yes it's horribly stereotypical, yes it’s been done before in a thousand different variations. However, that doesn’t stop it being a laugh a minute — just as the blurb says. Although it is tailored to an American teen audience it will find resonance the world over and will no doubt do well on DVD in the United Kingdom where it has just been released.

Jesse Metcalf plays John Tucker, college stud, smooth talker, hero to the college men for his legendary ability to bed the hottest girls. His great secret to success is that he dates different girls from different cliques that would never talk to each other and during the basketball season tells his conquests that he is banned from dating. He is a “total operator”. This is working out just fine for John until one gym class unites all the girls and inevitably the fur starts flying.

Kate, drawn in as an innocent bystander, tells the girls that they shouldn’t get mad but get even. Comedy ensues as the girls first try to make John ‘undateable’ then destroy his reputation and then, after finally being dumped, decide to break his heart. Stepping forward for the task, Kate inevitably falls for Tucker’s charms despite a growing attraction to his younger brother. However, there is always a twist in the tale…

… but I will leave that your imagination. This film, directed by Betty Thomas, is light-hearted and it is fun and the reason it will appeal to those over 20 is that even in adulthood, relationships don’t really change, something that is implied by Kate, linking her Mum’s romantic disasters to her own neuroses. Games are sadly part of the whole experience of relationship-forming and building and we do all play them to a greater or lesser degree. The plot of the four girls is subtle reminder that the term ‘fairer sex’ when applied to women is often grossly over-kind. We have all been teenagers as well and we will all probably identify with one of the characters. Thankfully, it eschews over-moralising in favour of being pure entertainment.

As such there is little to comment on when it comes to acting. Metcalf is well suited to his role and carries it off, as do the female leads. None of their performances will win Oscars however, and that is as it is should be. The ending of the movie – "let's just chill and have a huge cake fight" – is very much in keeping with its style.

One of the big quibbles with the DVD will be that the extras are all pretty standard and some of them are pretty thin. For example, there are a mere two deleted scenes and I found this disappointing, as they are my favourite feature. However, the music videos are a worthy addition, as is the live performance by People in Planes. All in all, if you are feeling blue this Valentine’s Day and want to be reminded of what fools love can make of us all (and maybe why it isn’t worth all the hassle) then John Tucker Must Die is a must-see.

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