When it is this...summer-ey...out (and I know that the whole country has been heatwaved all week, but the record will show Chicago being right up there with the best of 'em), two things happen:

-I stop caring about the rest of the world. So I have no idea what's happening anywhere, and I hope it's not important.

-I go to see shit movies, because that is what you do when it's hot.

Basically I'm trying to say that I'm not an idiot. I certainly didn't expect John Tucker Must Die to be a "good" film. Frankly, I don't know if I expected it to even be "watchable," and I'm quite relieved that it was.

I'm not a teenaged girl. There, I said it, and I'm relieved to have it off my chest. However "not a teenaged girl" is the wrong the target audience for this film, as attested to by the crowd I saw it with: around 90% of the theater was sixteen and female, and the only other male over high-school age was sufficiently creepy that I was made to feel like a chickenhawk just from breathing the same air that he did.

The interesting thing about sharing the space with such an audience is to observe the diversity of reactions. There's one character, played by Penn Badgley, who is clearly in the movie just to provide the adults who stumble in there by accident with some level of ironic humor, and it worked, mostly: his crowning line is "She likes old-school Elvis Costello, she listens to obscure podcasts and she reads Dave Eggers. She's deep." I laughed at this (it's better in the delivery). Not lustily and not long, but I laughed. I was very alone.

Around me, girls (and some boys, to be fair) would instead laugh at cutesy jokes about dating and cliques and blah blah The O.C. blah adolescent sexuality (here's a miserable experience: character X in a teen movie makes a joke about being a slut and girls erupt in appreciative laughter, and you, the 24-year-old male critic just sit there thinking that a plurality of these sixteen-year-old girls are having more sex than I am). A new special edition DVD of Some Like It Hot came out yesterday; I only bring this up to illustrate that once upon a time there were movies when comedy involved things like Tony Curtis impersonating a millionaire and Jack Lemmon impersonating a woman; now comedy is things like a teenaged boy having his protein powder spiked with estrogen. Yes, yes, these complaints could have been made at any point in the last 25 years, I'm just making them now.

If I'm not apparently saying anything about the film, it's because I have nothing to say. It's toothless, far more than the title suggests, and its altogether safe and has a very nice little moral at the end (I miss you, Heathers). The cast is mostly fine in underwritten roles: Sophia Bush has surprisingly good comic timing; Brittany Snow, more-or-less the lead, possesses great screen presence and I can imagine that in a small role in an ensemble film with a good director she could probably be mistaken for a good actress. The film has been made by people who were palpably bored with their project and so did things with camera movement and editing that are largely effective if only because they are distracting. In all ways, this is a completely neutered movie: it is neither good nor bad in the slightest degree.

Shortly after the movie let out, I was on the phone and it came about that I had just seen the film. "How was it?" I was asked. "It was...a movie," I replied, "light moved through a strip of 35mm celluloid to project images on a white canvas screen at the rate of 24 images per second." A day to ponder - or indeed, not ponder - the experience has not changed this basic impression.

Update: *sigh* 5/10, perhaps establishing the precise baseline by which all other movies ought be judged: it is a completely inflectionless, neutral object.