Movie News & Reviews

Humdrum ‘American Teen' is so 23 years ago

It's got the jock, the geek, the rebel, the princess and the heart-throb, but despite the obvious similarities, the new documentary “American Teen” is not “The Breakfast Club” for today's high schoolers.

That 1985 drama, directed by John Hughes, made a statement about the fears and doubts that plague all teenagers despite their social or economic status. “The Breakfast Club” depicted five high schoolers opening up and coming together during one Saturday-morning detention, and it became a classic because it was fun, effective and poignant.

Since then, the idea that teens don't fit broad stereotypes is one that Hollywood has endlessly adapted, reworked and even spoofed without any new insight, and Nanette Burstein's “American Teen” is no different.

Set in Warsaw, Ind., the documentary follows five students during their senior year of high school. And while Burstein successfully captures the stress, the social isolation some students feel, and even the acne, the film does nothing more than present a snapshot of today, reassuring us that not much has changed since we last checked.

Sure, the documentary is well-done and the students featured feel genuine – especially “geek” Jake Tusing, who has some of the most painfully candid moments, and “rebel” Hannah Bailey, who serves as the main protagonist. But there are no real surprises.

Who would be shocked to learn that Colin Clemens – the star basketball player and the “jock” in the film – is actually a nice guy who struggles with his father's high expectations? Or that there's more than meets the eye to the “princess” (Megan Krizmanich) and the “heartthrob” (Mitch Reinholt)?

Whereas “The Breakfast Club” left audiences with a heartfelt speech, encouraging all of us to embrace the complex character traits within ourselves and within others, “American Teen” leaves you feeling like you spent an hour and a half in a time machine.

You've been there, seen that and lived through it already.