John Tucker Must Die
2006Director: Betty Thomas
Cast: Jesse Metcalfe, Brittnay Snow, Ashanti
he death envisioned for John Tucker is not a literal one, hardly. Instead, these jilted girls crave something far worse, and in their universe of Teendom, the social death is it. John Tucker is more than deserving, to be sure, having dated three of the girls simultaneously and secretly, and making it all look like a slick operation. But payback, in this case, is literally a bitch.
In a sense, Jesse Metcalfe as John Tucker is perfect casting. A one-time soap-hunk and former Desperate Housewives paramour, in addition to currently dating a member of Girls Aloud, Metcalfe is hard not to loathe. As high school über-jock John Tucker, an emetic mix of charm, narcissism, and machismo, Metcalfe is hard not to loathe. Which is to say that he played the role nearly pitch perfect. Meanwhile, the predictable high school cast surrounds Tucker: the ditzy cheerleader, Heather (Ashanti); the frightfully fastidious overachiever, Carrie (Arielle Kebbel); and the attractive, vegan activist, Beth (Sophia Bush). Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
Enter the doe-eyed and milquetoast Kate (Brittnay Snow) to unravel Tucker’s scheme. She’s already seen him wine and dine all three girls, and while Kate doesn’t even register on their social radar, she’s drawn into an alliance of convenience in order to “systematically destroy” Tucker. First they trick him into modeling for photo shoot that turns out to be an ad campaign for genital herpes. Then they add estrogen to his energy supplement, which, as a result, makes him irritable and frazzled and bloated. His nipples ache, too. Somehow, they get him into women’s thong underwear. But no luck: Tucker’s cool is impenetrable. He turns everything into a fashion: thong underwear, genital herpes, effeminacy.
Indeed, John Tucker Must Die offers those stock genre tropes typical of the high school movie, where the beautiful people are ugly on the inside and the athletes function like zombies with no internal organs. In these morality tales, the loner, outsider, or geek triumphs over the superficial and frivolous established order. Tucker’s younger brother, Scott, is that foil, an acerbic, pensive, loner-type dwarfed by his older bother’s popularity. Despite sharing common interests with Scott (“old school Elvis Costello,” “obscure podcasts,” “Dave Eggers,” “etc.”) Kate gravitates to his older brother out of necessity. The new plan is to make John Tucker fall in love with Kate, and when the opportunity presents itself, break his heart.
But we are dealing with real people here, people that have internal organs. Kate begins to question the probity of her actions, and even though the fan-boy Scott will triumph in the end because he and Kate are both “Deep” and “Real,” John Tucker isn’t actually a zombie. As crassly portrayed as the athletes and beautiful people’s are here, it’s a hollow conceit; it is the nerd’s last chance to re-imagine things as they should’ve been. In the real world the beautiful people and athletes are cool, to a degree. The nerds, the geeks, the loners: they write novels, TV shows, screenplays. They get to invert the hierarchy, project, and thus affirm the peculiarity of their adolescent experience, and, finally, offer up their own personal John Tucker as a burnt offering. Oh, what a fanciful fairytale.
John Tucker Must Die is playing in theatres across the country.
By: Ron Mashate
Published on: 2006-08-22