Senior Year (2022) Review!!

Synopsis – A thirty seven year-old woman wakes up from a twenty-year-coma and returns to the high school where she was once a popular cheerleader.

My Take – Though I am a fan of High School comedies, personally I really wasn’t expecting much from this latest Netflix release. Mainly as I am not a fan of the occasionally amusing but mostly inappropriate zinger Rebel Wilson is known for. And found her to be easily the worst part of films like Pitch Perfect 3 (2017), Isn’t It Romantic (2019) and The Hustle (2019).

But at first glance, this Clueless-inspired high school comedy, directed by Alex Hardcastle (The Office, Grace and Frankie) and written by Andrew Knauer, Arthur Pielli and Brandon Scott Jones, seemed to contain all the trappings of a nostalgic comfort flick with every modern film trope piled in.

However, while the film is entirely watchable, even agreeable at certain parts, its cringe-inducing, terrible dialogue, and story, that feels more confused than its protagonist, end up playing spoilsport. Something which even Wilson‘s improvisational shtick, mainly involving semi-rude take downs of the American high school elite, can’t salvage.

Sure, the film is backed by a solid supporting cast with a plenty of nostalgic 90s throwbacks and a toe-tapping soundtrack, yet the film, which essentially aims to provide mindless escapism, is lackluster for the most part. While it does contain the expected lightness of the genre, it doesn’t succeed as a comedy film, despite an interesting concept attached to it.

The story follows Stephanie Conway (Angourie Rice), a teenage Australian immigrant, who in order to prevent herself from ever being made fun of or belittled again in front of her peers by mean girl Tiffany (Ana Yi Puig), vows to become popular.

And by senior year, Stephanie is not only the cheer-leading captain, but is also dating Blaine (Tyler Barnhardt), the most popular boy at Harding High, and is even on track to win the prom queen title. Unfortunately, her dreams are never realized when a cheer-leading accident lands her in a 20-year coma.

Waking up at 37, Stephanie (Rebel Wilson) is shocked to realize that she has been unconscious for so long. Annoyed with missing out on so much, Stephanie quickly reconnects with her old friends Martha (Mary Holland), now the high school principal, and Seth (Sam Richardson), and decides to go back to high school and reclaim her status and become the prom queen.

The only problem is that the everything has changed since 2002, and further complicating matters is that her arch-nemesis Tiffany (Zoë Chao), who is now married to Blaine (Justin Hartley), has a popular daughter named Bri (Jade Bender) in school, who she is willing to use to ruin her dreams – again.

Starting of as a time capsule that we have stumbled upon 20 years later, and filled with colorful visual aesthetics, and a soundtrack consisting of Avril Lavigne, Mandy Moore, and the early catalog of Britney Spears, the film is an amusing look back for millennials as well as a lesson in pop culture for Gen Z. The throwback moments to the 90s and early 2000 are just endless, however, the cracks start to appear when the film starts to confusingly address the current woke generation.

I am presuming the general concept for the film was to portray the contrast between a millennial and Gen Z high school experience. And the familiar material does go to slightly more unique places when Stephanie and her ’90s values mix with today’s more progressive teens. Stephanie’s discovery of influencer culture and the currency of Followers is hilarious initially, until it goes too deep into the stereotypical behaviors of the current generation.

Its predictability and use of teenage tropes are not utilized effectively and furthermore present a story that is unimaginative as a whole. With a 111 minutes runtime, the film doesn’t really move along as a decent comedy film with the majority of the punchlines ultimately falling flat.

Considering the concept there should be room for jokes to land and nostalgic moments to be appreciated, but the script fails enormously on flushing out the story and it contributes to the unsuccessful purpose.

Yes, there are some scenes where the film actually has a big, beating heart and you’ll find yourself getting invested in what’s going on, but then, next thing you know, the screenwriters come along and make everything cringe-inducing again. The film is filled with nostalgia, but doesn’t use it to properly amplify its own story. The lead character, relationship dynamics and premise are surface-level and, despite a few moments, the film just never lives up to its potential.

As her expected, Rebel Wilson, does her usual thing, seemingly improvising insults to take down the crazy characters around her. In comparison, I found myself being more compelled by her younger self, portrayed by Angourie Rice. Zoë Chao does the best with what she’s given, while Chris Parnell, Sam Richardson, Justin Hartley, and Mary Holland bring in their usual charm and deliver.

Among the younger cast, Avantika and Joshua Colley, match Wilson’s energy, while Jade Bender, Michael Cimino and Jeremy Ray Taylor provide good support. One of the film’s best moments contains a surprise cameo by Alicia Silverstone. On the whole, ‘Senior Year’ is a harmless comedy that doesn’t utilize its tropes and hooks effectively.

Directed –

Starring – Rebel Wilson, Alicia Silverstone, Angourie Rice

Rated – R

Run Time – 111 minutes

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