(director: Sammi Cohen; screenwriters: Casey Rackham, Kirsten King; cinematographer: Matthew Wise; editor: Melissa Remenarich-Aperlo; music: St. Panther; cast: Rowan Blanchard (Paige), Auli’i Cravalho (AJ), Megan Mullally (Angie, Paige’s Single Mother), Aasif Mandvi (Coach Murray), Isabella Ferreira (Gabriella), Patrick Klein (AJ’s Parent), Addie Weyrich (Chantal), Tyler Alvarez (Dillon), Teala Dunn (Stacey), Rico Paris (Tim), Michelle Buteau (School Principal Collins); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: NR; producers; Danielle Renfrew Behrens, Ryan Bennett, Jeremy Garelick, Mickey Liddell, Natasha Lyonne, Andrew Miano, Katie Newman, Will Phelps, Maya Rudolph, Pete Shilaimon, Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz: A Hulu release; 2022)
“As bland as the walls of Miller High School.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A jokey, predictable, formulaic and slight YA queer rom/com TV movie. It’s weakly directed to be appealing, silly and sexually progressive by first time feature director Sammi Cohen and cutely written by Casey Rackham and Kirsten King.
Teenager virgin Paige (Rowan Blanchard), who speaks to us in a voiceover, is an aspiring artist who wants to go to CalArts. Her overbearing but supportive single parent mom Angie (Megan Mullally) encourages her artistic ambitions and her decision of coming out as gay.
One subplot has an unknown spray-painting graffiti artist who goes by the nickname “King Pun” defacing school property. The principal (Michelle Buteau) suspects Paige is the culprit, and decides to expel her for the semester. Since she’s innocent, Paige tries to catch the guilty party and restore her good name by cooperating with school officials and agrees to join the track team to try and catch the real culprit. Thereby the school cancels the punishment.
Being on the team also becomes an opportune time to get closer to her female classmate, Gabriella (Isabella Ferreira), whom she has a crush on but freezes up when trying to speak to her. But Paige falls for another teammate when the wisecracking track coach (Aasif Mandvi) pairs her to train with Gabby’s twin sister AJ (Auli’i Cravalho). The two will team up to try and track down the graffiti artist and become close.
Another fluff piece subplot has Paige’s platonic straight best friend Dillon (Tyler Alvarez) and his girlfriend Stacey (Teala Dunn) run against each other for school president. There are some funny bits attempted over their campaign talks and their lust for each other.
The worst subplot and worst lines in a film with many bad lines has the track coach make a play for Paige’s mom.
The gay friendly coming-of-age film is genial in a typical straight teen rom/com way, but its jokes are not funny and its story is as bland as the walls of Miller High School.
REVIEWED ON 4/30/2022 GRADE: C