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CRY_WOLF (director/writer: Jeff Wadlow; screenwriter: Beau Bauman; cinematographer: Romeo Tirone; editor: Seth Gordon; music: Michael Wandmacher; cast: Julian Morris (Owen Matthews), Lindy Booth (Dodger Allen), Jared Padalecki (Tom), Jon Bon Jovi (Rich Walker), Sandra McCoy (Mercedes), Kristy Wu (Regina), Paul James (Lewis), Jesse Janzen (Randall), Ethan Cohn (Graham); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Beau Bauman; Rogue Pictures; 2005)
“Manages to offer nothing original.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Cry_Wolf is a smarty-pants teenage slasher movie that follows the genre’s usual trope, but manages to offer nothing original and nothing special that would make even a fan of the genre be itching to see it. Though not awful awful but just not good, it at least keeps the viewer on his toes until the very end in finding out who the killer is. First-time filmmakers Jeff Wadlow and Beau Bauman try to make a scary film using an exclusive American boarding prep high school as background. It follows a group of eight spoiled brats, Owen, Dodger, Tom, Randall, Mercedes, Regina, Lewis, and Graham, who are snobby members of a “liar’s club” and get their kicks pulling pranks and playing a game that encourages them to be deceptive, manipulative and vengeful.

The film comes with a heavy-handed moral message lifted from fairy-tale lore about the “boy who cried wolf,” but here it’s the student who cries wolf too often who will not be believed when something real serious is going down.

Director Jeff Wadlow made this flick after winning a contest in 2002 and $1 million from the Chrysler Corporation, with the only stipulation that a Chrysler is seen in the action. The beautiful PT Cruiser gets its agreed upon advertisement while standing in the student parking lot, and the money boys supposedly offered no more interference (the poor results therefore fall entirely on the filmmaker).

The film opens as troubled transfer Brit student Owen Matthews (Julian Morris), who looks like an angel but reveals he’s been booted out of a number of prep schools and that his wealthy absentee father had to pull strings to get him admitted to the snooty Westlake Academy. Owen upon first arriving tells this tale of woe to the attractive conniving scholarship student Dodger (Lindy Booth), whom he is smitten with. This ‘meeting of the minds’ conversation gets Owen an invite to the “liar’s club,” as he’s taken to their secret meeting place on campus after curfew by roommate Tom (Jared Padalecki). The naughty privileged kiddies play the Wolf game in which one of them is assigned to be a shepherd and secretly chooses a wolf (leaving a red mark on their chest) while the rest of the group become sheep. The players guess who is the wolf and try not to be suspicious by lying their asses off.

Since there’s an unsolved murder of a teenage female townie, the pranksters think it would be great fun to suggest that someone in school is responsible for the murder and send a schoolwide e-mail message to this effect and warn that the killer, whom they describe in great detail, will strike again on the campus. This supposedly gets the attention of the real killer and things start getting out of hand as the original prank backfires bringing on tragic results. The student adviser and journalism teacher, Rich Walker (Jon Bon Jovi, the rocker without his long hair), tries to give the kiddies some guidance, but his ethics come into question when it’s discovered he’s balling Dodger.

The uninspired acting and silly plot line do not help matters, as the filmmakers put all their chips on the twisty puzzler being enough to make the film a winner. Unfortunately it’s not enough; the young actors didn’t have the charisma to pull off this prankster laden film, and it gets unmasked as an unexciting non-event.

REVIEWED ON 9/19/2005 GRADE: C –

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”