You'd think that a movie called "John Tucker Must Die" will approach the parameters of a gritty look on high school-style existentialism. As the National Geographic Channel puts it, think again.
John Tucker (Jesse Metcalfe of "Desperate Housewives") is the star of their high school's basketball team, and he's secretly dating three girls simultaneously. Upon learning how their "serial-cheating" boyfriend is three-timing them, cheerleader Heather (Ashanti), intellectual Carrie (Arielle Kebbel) and activist Beth (Sophia Bush) plot for revenge. They set him to fall for new girl Kate Spencer (Brittany Snow) and have her break his heart later on.
So that's "John Tucker Must Die." It's a film that tries to go for the feel-good parts of the standard teen flick, along with the usual high school relationship subplots. But gritty it's not. Though initially the movie seems to head towards being an effective satirical comedy, it immediately becomes just another stock sleaze. Betty Thomas' direction is breezy enough but she fails to give the film a distinctive bite as Jeff Lowell's screenplay seems not to draw a bead on to the vaguest notion of creativity.
Metcalfe is effective as the eponymous lead while Snow (who I recall as Zoe in "The Pacifier") could have been charming but the problematic script doesn't give her a juicy character that could rise beyond its stereotype and she ends up bland. In fact, one could arguably root more for John Tucker. As for the rest of the cast, they're a mixed bag with Ashanti and Jenny McCarthy as Kate's mom figuring prominently in my head.
"John Tucker Must Die" isn't so much an absolute schlock. Despite its transparent and derivative nature, it does have some of its moments that elicit chuckles. It's that sort of movies I watch on sleepless nights on cable given the right mood. But with a title as toothsome as that, it tantalizingly could have been way better.