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Review: 'Jawbreaker' just jaw-droppingly awful

Web posted on:
Monday, February 22, 1999 2:41:44 PM EST

By Reviewer Paul Tatara

(CNN) -- Kristin Lemmerman, my trusty editor at CNN, pointed out to me the other day that I've been using the word "breasts" in quite a lot of my recent reviews. Freudians will be pleased to know that I wasn't really conscious of this sudden fixation, but look at it from where I'm sitting. What have I covered in the past few weeks? "Varsity Blues"? "She's All That"? I didn't exactly have to search out the cleavage. It came lookin' for me.

Let's be honest here, those movies may make surface feints towards legitimate content, but the majority of their immediate drawing power (especially in the teen market) lies in the provocative presentation of the aforementioned word that I'm going to avoid writing from now on.

Check out a few of the "coming soon" posters the next time you're in a theater lobby if you don't believe me. The one for "I Still Know What You Did Last Summer" made it look like the movie was sponsored by Playtex Cross-Your-Heart.

Theatrical preview for "Jawbreaker"
Windows Media 28K 80K

And now I need to review the latest vivaciously vicious teen picture, "Jawbreaker," starring Rose McGowan and Rebecca Gayheart. Suffice it to say that the "teen-age" girls in this movie can also be used as flotation devices if it takes a dive at the box office. This is supposed to be a black comedy about high school cliques, like the ritually over-praised "Heathers," but writer/director Darren Stein's screenplay is so simple (and simple-minded) it's almost staggering. I sure hope he didn't stay up too late the night he wrote it.

Snobby, snotty role no stretch for McGowan

McGowan plays the hubba-hubba leader of a trio of high school girls who basically run the joint because they're all packing enticingly full payloads, shirts and pants-wise. They're snotty and snobby and full of themselves, which isn't much of a stretch for McGowan. I happened to catch a couple minutes of her on Roseanne's talk show the other night, during which she explained how all the (sneer) "rednecks" that she grew up with in Seattle didn't understand her self-satisfied naughty wonderfulness.

Judging from her work in "Jawbreaker," she's lucky they didn't pack her up and sell her as a blow-up doll in the red light district. She sure as hell can't act, opting instead to get the most out of Stein's propensity towards making her and the other girls walk in slow motion towards the camera. Wiggle-wiggle, swing-swing, jiggle-jiggle. She looks like she's continually pushing a dessert cart at the Playboy mansion. (There's also a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo by McGowan's fiancé, Marilyn Manson. Go ahead and blink.)

The movie opens with a semi-playful kidnapping that goes terribly wrong when the huge jawbreaker that McGowan's character sticks in the victim's mouth gets hung up in her throat after she's been tossed into the trunk of a car. It was all supposed to be a prank, but now one of the hubba-hubbas is dead, and, because this is a modern satire, the other hubba-hubbas have to start acting coldhearted about it.

They take her back home, dump her on her bed, and rip her underwear in the hopes that the cops will think she's been raped and murdered. Kids these days. Then a mousy nerd girl finds out about the killing, but her silence is bought when she's transformed by the murderers into yet another thermonuclear bombshell. Then they all walk in slow motion towards the camera. Again.

Character with a conscience

Gayheart's character finally develops a conscience, so this sets up an eventual showdown at the prom that's basically a lame version of the wrap-up to "Carrie." I should point out that Gayheart shows signs of being an actual actress. There's something invitingly earthy and open about her, even as she's caught up in the director's empty, film-school shenanigans.

Stein repeatedly over-pronounces the visuals in order to make it all look like a cartoon, but the flashy editing and pointlessly sis-boom-bah transitions between scenes smack of a technical facility that isn't hindered by the weight of actual ideas. Hear ye, hear ye: This is the worst movie I've seen in 1999, and a lot of people will have to work very hard to top it. The scary part is that somebody probably will.

I don't recall any actual nudity in "Jawbreaker," although the girls must have to wake up extra-early in the morning to paint on their ensembles. There's bad language, sex, and the rather gruesome accidental killing. Think "Woo" on a killing spree. Rated R. 90 minutes.

Aaron Spelling says he's shocked by sexy teen movies
February 22, 1999
Review: Comedy rules among Sundance offerings
February 4, 1999
Review: She's not necessarily 'All That'
February 3, 1999
Review: 'Varsity Blues' a colossal fumble
January 18, 1999

Official 'Jawbreaker' site
Sony Pictures Entertainment
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