Five teen movies I like (that I probably shouldn’t)

One—10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

10 Things is a teen movie done right. The acting is above par, the music is pretty good, and the story is a clever adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew, bringing one of Shakespeare’s most dated plays comfortably into modern sensibilities. Most of all I like the writing, every character is a character, in bold face. Some parts are a bit farfetched, like the bar scene (in 1999 high school kids didn’t have free access to bars, even the biker kind) but most could reasonably occur in a normal modern high school. The film is also well shot. There is plenty of standard cut back and forth between two characters bits, but in-between are these beautiful long shots, full of complex choreography and movement that are pulled off without a hitch. The film is not, perhaps, a seminal piece of cinematography but it entertains, and entertains well, even on repeated viewings.

Two—Ferris Bueler’s Day Off (1986)

Who doesn’t love Ferris? Ed Rooney, that’s who, and he will stop at nothing to catch Ferris cutting class. No one can catch Ferris, and that is the joy of this film. Ferris Bueler does everything you wish you had done when you cut school, and gets away with it. Not only that, he never worries about it a bit, he just does it. This is a Carpe Diem film, in a big way. After his big day, Ferris learns: nothing. He manages to discuss general 80’s issues a bit (divorce in the scene at the stock exchange, materialism in the restaurant bathroom) but only in a by-the-by way, he might as well be talking about the weather. In the end Ferris is a laugh out loud funny film. Funny in a pretty universal way, it has lasted this long and mostly avoids the crude and tasteless jokes that are all too common in humor.

Three—Clueless (1995)

Not a whole lot redeeming about Clueless. Made up slang, an improbable family relationship and she sort of ends up with her brother in the end: creepy. (Technically she ends up with her ex step brother who is way older than her.) Still it has its charm: the dated computers and cell phones, the mismatched set of friends, the indulgent and clueless father. I might be most taken with the narrative style, the heavy use of first person voice overs to explain thought, move the plot, or just entertain. From what I understand, loosely based on Emma.

Four—17 Again (2009)

Disney face of the week (Zac Efron) and fading TV star (Matthew Perry) both play Mike, a guy who gets magically sent back to high school just in time to meet his children. Funny, a little off the wall, and with only a few awkward moments, definitely worth watching more than once. Although it was marketed pretty teen oriented, it is a surprisingly grown up film: Mike's perspective on life is different this time around, and it shows. Never a preachy film it nonetheless promotes teen abstinence, working hard, and loving you family.

Five—The Fast and the Furious (2001)

The Fast and the Furious is a film made primarily for 14 year old boys, but I enjoy it. Paul Walker, the boyish undercover cop infiltrates the world of street racing/truck hijacking. Or maybe he just has a crush on the girl, it's not perfectly clear. Cars go fast, people shoot guns, occasionally things blow up. A great time had by all. There is a lack of bad guys: is it the tough senior cop, the FBI agent, the Chinese gangsters, or Vin Diesel? I don't know and I don't care. Lots of totally fake “authentic” street racing.

Six—Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992 movie)

What can I say? Buffy is a mostly cheesy movie about vampires in high school. Made well before the regrettable phase where every vampire story is a ripoff of Twilight. It's cheesy and not scary (except for the scene in the graveyard) but it isn't trying to be serious or meaningful. The characters are pretty well developed for a film of this type, and include almost every high school stereotype. The writing is not great, perhaps, but better than some. Don't look too hard for plot holes, or expect people to be smart, but laugh along with the comic antic. I also appreciate the portrayal of vampires in the film, they are bad but not entirely superhuman. When you stab them they die, like normal people. (Yes, I said five movies, and this is number six. Deal with it.)