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Movie Review: American Teen

Author James Dunsford
Submitted 01-08-2008

Taking their teenage children to the cinema to see a movie about the lives and loves of a group of high school kids may not be every father‘s idea of a good day out.

Indeed, to the adult mind, three-hour phone conversations about who kissed who at last night’s party or scenes of zit-induced hysteria are banal at best, annoying at worst.

Still, as sure as your teenage daughter will want new clothes this season, the likelihood is most kids are going to want to see ‘American Teen’ this summer, the latest hit from director Nannette Burstein.

And, if dads can bring themselves to summon up all of their parenting skills (including endless patience and free-flowing popcorn funds) and tag along, they may just find they enjoy themselves.

Not your typical romantic comedy, American Teen comes with one major twist – it is all real life. All of the ‘characters’ take on the traditional roles of jock, geek, beauty queen etc, but are in fact genuine students at Warsaw High School, Indiana. Burstein films they as they go about their normal adolescent businesses, falling in and out of love, rebelling, playing sports and avoiding schoolwork.

For that reason alone, fathers may want to go and see this unique movie that was a hit at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. There may also be a bit of guilty pleasure in recalling one’s teenage years – the first kiss, the drama and the friendships.

Children are also likely to love seeing their own lives played out on the big screen by their peers in what amounts to a dream-come-true for the reality TV generation, particularly as the movie has been heavily promoted on MTV, but it is not suitable for all ages.

‘American Teen’ is rated PG13 but features scenes of swearing, smoking, drinking and sexual language, so parents may want to restrict viewing to older adolescents.