What’s Your Genre?

Published on October 17th, 2011

It’s teen movie week at TMM! Today, Alex breaks down the greatest teen movie cast that never was.

Picking a teen movie with the best cast is difficult. Mean Girls has Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Rachel McAdams, a still-funny Lindsay Lohan and Lizzy Caplan. Can’t Hardly Wait features half of the cast of Six Feet Under, Seth Green, and everybody’s favourite 1990s film artifact, Ethan Embry. The Breakfast Club’s cast can’t really be considered because that movie’s cultural impact turned them all into their own kind of legend. But I know what the greatest teen movie cast is, and I know a movie in which they’re all assembled. It just wasn’t a teen movie.

Recently, I saw the Anna Faris vehicle What’s Your Number? It was, well, mediocre. I didn’t hate it, and I certainly laughed a few times, but it didn’t exactly make me want to tell all of my friends about it. I’ve actually specifically told people who asked about it to avoid seeing it. It was entertaining enough, but it was mostly just shitty and boring. But I went for the cast, and the cast did their best; the problem was they were in the wrong type of movie.

"Oh no... there are ADULTS up there!"

When you look at the cast of an ensemble teen movie, it’s rare that everybody has what would be called a really successful career. We’ve all seen Jason Biggs fuck a pie, which is a tough thing to forget when you’re throwing out casting ideas. Ethan Embry’s career of playing a likeable young man disappeared with his hair. But (good, or at least watchable) ensemble teen movies tend to have a pretty high success rate for their supporting actors. 10 Things I Hate About You featured Heath Ledger, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and David Krumholtz. Like I said before, half of the cast of Six Feet Under (and Seth Green!) are in Can’t Hardly Wait. Even Not Another Teen Movie features Chris Evans and the perpetually underappreciated Eric Christian Olsen. What’s Your Number? just sort of combines all of the people we should have seen in these successful 90s teen movies into one movie, one that is unfortunately not actually a teen movie.

What’s Your Number? has a ridiculous premise: Anna Faris decides that twenty is too high of a number of sexual partners to have, so she decides to stop having sex with people (her number is nineteen) until she finds the love of her life. The reason the movie doesn’t work is because Faris is in her thirties, and I don’t care about anybody who is over nineteen and actually thinks like that. The reason the movie almost works though is because the ensemble cast is pretty amazing: Chris Evans, Chris Pratt, Martin Freeman, Andy Samberg, Joel McHale, Aziz Ansari, Anthony Mackie, and Ed Begley Jr. all play roles in this movie. Had it been made 10 years earlier though, they would have all been playing far better roles.

Few of these actors have ever really played a legitimate teen movie role; Evans was in The Perfect Score, but nobody really remembers that one (because it’s awful). Most of the actors simply didn’t have careers in Hollywood when they were still young enough to play teenagers. But let’s pretend they were. Let’s pretend that the cast of What’s Your Number? can be taken back to 2001 when they were all between the ages of 20-25 (with some exceptions) and therefore the appropriate ages for these teen movie roles:

Anna Faris – This woman’s comic timing, physical comedy skills and bug-eyed look of adorable astonishment were made to play the lead in a teen movie.

Chris Evans – The best friend. This is the weakest of the assignments here, but for a guy like Evans, who is mostly known for being super mega ultra sexy, he’s a pretty good actor. I trust he could do this. Plus, he’s always been really funny.

Joel McHale – The douchebag star quarterback of the football team. Basically, Trip McNeely before Trip McNeely went to college.

Chris Pratt – The quarterback’s fatish, fratish friend who probably starts on the offensive line. Pratt plays the idiot well, and would be a good companion with McHale’s dry sarcasm (not unlike Parks & Recreation works well following Community on Thursdays).

Andy Samberg – The token, uncomfortably awkward super nerd… which also happens to be the exact same role he plays in What’s Your Number?

Aziz Ansari – Samberg’s overly confident, but still nerdy, friend. And when you think about it, Ansari is just a version of Anthony Michael Hall who owns a lot of hip-hop records anyway.

Anthony Mackie – Token black guy! Mackie is talented (see: Half Nelson/everything else he’s in), and underused (see: The Hurt Locker), and his talents would definitely be underused in a teen movie, just like most other actors who play the ‘token black guy.’

Martin Freeman – The foreign exchange student. Freeman may not be as Eastern European as the typical person cast for this role, but he makes up for it with ample doses of Britishness. Shitty crumpet jokes will abound!

Ed Begley Jr. – Faris’ dad. Begley Jr. is both hilarious and generally a good actor when he has to be a bit more serious, so I trust him to give us all some not so thinly veiled life lessons.

Anna Faris is amazing. I love her, and I want the best for her. Maybe starring in a teen movie wouldn’t have done that for her (although her role as Cindy Campbell in Scary Movie might almost count), but it’s not like her career is in the greatest place anyway. Everybody likes her, but all of the movies she stars in are awful. And it’s possible this teen movie would have been awful as well, but it would have at least had a pretty stellar cast… kind of like most good 90s and onward ensemble teen movies. Those movies aren’t particularly good per se, they’re just funny, and they’re typically performance driven. Which is also how I would describe What’s Your Number’s funny moments; that they come in a movie about people in their thirties makes the movie too ridiculous to even kind of care about. Even the actual story could have been transplanted to a teen movie about a slutty teenager, allowing the general absurdities of its characters to make it more enjoyable, if not necessarily more serious. Thinking about this as the second half of What’s Your Number? played out in front of me, I got kind of depressed that I couldn’t go back in time and make this happen*, but it also made me recognize something.

*Screw Terra Nova, this is the type of thing we should be using time machines for.

When I find myself watching a comedy I don’t particularly care for, I always end up wishing it was a teen movie. They’re insanely rewatchable films, and while I don’t tend to watch them all that often, I always kind of want to. If you asked me to watch Mean Girls with you right now, I would say yes. You want to eat Pop Tarts and watch Can’t Hardly Wait? I’m in. And if you ever want to analyze the use of social media in John Tucker Must Die, I’m ready to co-write that post-graduate essay. This week at the MacGuffin Men, everything will be dedicated to the type of movie we just can’t seem to outgrow; not the teen movie we wish existed, but the actual teen movies that do exist. We know that rarely do they accurately reflect the teenage experience, but most movies don’t accurately reflect any sort of human experience anyway; we just like to laugh at the absurdities of the fake teenage experience the most.

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