We pay little attention to teen movies, a subset of movies that have given us a lot of pleasure over the years. Or at least a smile-worthy and diverting couple of hours. Some, like “Juno” deal with cosmic themes of life and death. Others, “Mean Girls,” comes to mind, deal with the sometimes brutal aspects of growing up in the hothouse social atmosphere of our giant high schools. Having thousands of teens jammed together for three or four years might be efficient, but sometimes it is hard on the kids.
Today, let’s look at fun teen films, ones that make us smile or laugh out loud.
“Superbad,” the 2007 cautionary tale of the dangers of mixing teenagers with booze, fits the bill. The not yet totally finished young people have no aspect of their behavior improved by the liberal, over liberal even, application of alcohol. Jonah Hill and Michael Cera play the central characters. They want to fit in, get the girl, or a girl, some girl or other, but as many of us well remember, have no real notion of how that might be done. But currying the favor of the in-crowd by bringing liquor to a party might be the correct path.
Seth Rogen and Bill Hader play adults acting badly and Emma Stone in an early role is delightful as one of the girls the boys want to get to know. Stone is now a multi-Oscar nominee and has won once, so far. Hill has also garnered a nomination, and for a dramatic role at that.
Director Amy Heckerling gave the world the 1995 sweet and funny “Clueless.” Wonderful teen movies like this one propel us through the lives of, in this case, Alicia Silverstone, with great energy. If a good deal of the energy is random or misdirected, well that is part of the process we in the seats can enjoy. Cher, Silverstone’s character, has the firm belief that she not only understands the world around her perfectly, but also that she has firm control of her life. Wrong of course, but she is so earnest and so well-intended that we root for her. The tragically departed Brittany Murphy likewise had a leading role.
Heckerling also directed the classic teen flick, “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”
We have to recommend “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” Actor, lawyer, TV star and college professor Ben Stein gained everlasting fame for his deadpan roll calling “Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?” Matthew Broderick played Bueller, a role so vivid and so well played that some might say that his career peaked at that early moment. Among many prominent cast members, we find Jennifer Grey and a pre-disaster Charlie Sheen who have a wonderful moment together.
Director John Hughes taught us that people will just love an over the top musical number just stuck into a movie because it would be fun. Bueller’s rendition of “Danke Schoen” for lots of us makes the whole movie. Hughes also directed a string of teen movies including “Home Alone”, “Sixteen Candles,” “Weird Science” and “Pretty in Pink.” We could do an entire piece on Hughes and probably should.
While our theaters are shuttered, we can use the Redbox, streaming services or even the old-fashioned Netflix by mail. Movies bring us smiles, laughs, and this week, a peek at the lives of high school kids. Poor things.