Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Kids Today and Their Darn Dead Cheerleaders

For the last six months or so, I’ve been living a happy existence free of talking baby ads and Law & Order reruns. LIfe without cable has its downsides--live baseball and awards ceremonies chief among them--but I had successfully convinced myself that Hulu, Netflix, and the good old fashioned salt-of-the-earth books are worth well over a $60 cable bill plus hidden fees and the evil trolls that bicker on the morning news.

That all changed two weeks ago when, unable to hack into insecure wireless networks in my new apartment, the fine people of Cablevision made me a non-contracted offer I couldn’t refuse. Well, thought I, I’ll keep it for baseball season and do my damnest to avoid watching stupidly written sitcoms, whinily acted melodramas, and madmen-inspiring Signals currently and potentially poisoning the digital airwaves.

Fourteen days after C-Day, I stand before you with a review of a TV movie-of-the-week about a dead cheerleader and starring the former princess of TV movies-if-the-week, Kellie Martin called Death of a Cheerleader. Thank you Lifetime.

Quick Plot: High school sophomore Angela (Martin) is dowdily cute and brainy. While this will eventually land her a sweet little NBC contract and an ill-fated screen romance with Noah Wylie, being a good writer and nice girl doesn’t quite cut it at the age of 16--particularly when your principal (Terry O’Quinn, John Locke and The Stepfather himself!) preaches intense competitiveness and a stop-at-nothing attitude to BE THE BEST!

Since this is high school in the mid 90s, “the best” means nothing less than cheerleader, yearbook editor (what?), and Lark (a sort of minor league sorority). Standing in her way is none other than the, according to O’Quinn’s creepily inappropriate authority figure, “the prettiest girl in school,” Stacie Lockwood. Deep into virgin-era Donna Martin, Tori Spelling milks all the hairspray she can out of the snotty and blond Queen Bee. And then, if you didn’t guess, she dies.

See, Angela REALLY wants Stacie to be her friend. After an ill-fated invitation to crash an “older crowd” party, Stacie implies that Angela--already stressed from not making the squad OR the yearbook staff--is no better than the angry goth girl that storms the hallways with a constant scowl. Naturally, a bloodless and awkwardly slo-mo’d stabbing has to occur. How else can Angela get Stacie’s boyfriend and treasurer position with the Larks?

Why am I still talking about this movie? I. Don’t. Know. Maybe it’s because I felt that I needed to stay current. Maybe I wanted to try something different. Or maybe, just maybe, I was too lazy to channel surf or find a DVD but motivated enough to write a review.

High Points
Despite being pretty typical of the TV movie style I can’t really fault any of the performances. Martin is embarrassingly on target as the disturbingly needy Angela and as the lone sympathetic popular girls, a young Marley Shelton stands out.

A Blossum hat is worn with typically awkward sass

Low Points
Just because it’s about teenagers does not mean a film requires a babysitting montage

Lessons Learned
To be a cheerleader in 1994, all you really needed was enough memory to nail four simple arm/leg movements. It makes Marsha Brady look like vintage Paula Abdul

Never impress teenage girls with shoulder length hair and Novas

The girl that constantly shouts “I”m gonna kill you, bitch!” is usually not the girl that killed the bitch

There is absolutely no reason the world we currently live in to watch this movie. Okay, maybe if you have a teenage daughter whose newfound obsession with being a cheerleader is getting a little unnerving, or if your cheerleading daughter has a friend that seems to be harboring an unnerving obsession, or if you just really dig Lifetime movies.

Friends, followers, readers, and robots: I promise this week or weekend to put an actual horror film--not one merely about the hell of high school--on the site. Currently on loan from Netflix is Rumplestilskin, which can’t NOT be good, and Burnt Offerings, whose Bette Davis/Karen Black/Oliver Reed/Burgess Meredith cast makes me happier than Donna Martin graduating.

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