Teen Party Movies
With Nickelodeon’s first PG-13 flick, Fun Size, opening this week, I took a look back at a few of the high school party movies that did it right.
Mean Girls (2004)
Before 30 Rock, Tina Fey was just that hilarious Weekend Update lady on Saturday Night Live. That is, until she had this wacky idea to take a book about dealing with the “Queen Bee” nature of high school cliques and turn it into one of the funniest movies on teenage girl culture ever created (while simultaneously launching the careers of Rachel McAdams, Lizzy Caplan, and Amanda Seyfried). Mean Girls centers around the life of Cady Heron (Lindsey Lohan), a pretty redhead who, at 16, is attending school for the first time. After she’s noticed by the three most popular girls in school, her eccentric new friends Janis (Caplan) and Damien (Daniel Franzese) urge her to begin an experiment: hang out with “The Plastics” and bring down the leader. Cady quickly falls into place as the fourth member, learning the ropes of social status while secretly working to rid Regina (McAdams) of her boyfriend (Aaron, played by Jonathan Bennett), her friends, and her “hot bod.” The lines quickly blur for Cady, and she begins to struggle with where her loyalties lie, especially when she falls for Aaron.
The two parties in this movie show the changes that Cady makes throughout the year. First is the Halloween party, where she shows up dressed as some sort of zombie because she didn’t realize that after a certain age, girls just wear as little as possible, and somehow that makes it a costume. This is her first look at teenage party culture, where we see glimpses of cheating, deception, and even possible incest among the typical sex, alcohol and pop music. After her transformation, Cady hosts her own party where she drinks too many Jello shots, pukes on Aaron’s lap, and realizes that she has, in fact, become the person she set out to destroy.
Funnyman Seth Rogen is best known as a comedian who often stars in Judd Apatow movies with the rest of “The Frat Pack.” But before he was on Freaks and Geeks, he was just a Canadian Jewish teenager who wrote a screenplay with his childhood pal, Evan Goldberg. After Rogen’s career began to take off, they teamed up with Apatow to make their movie Superbad a reality.
Evan (Michael Cera) and Seth’s 24-hour whirlwind adventure centers around their first real high school party at the end of senior year, but the true tale is one of friendship, and what happens when distance and other relationships get in the way. Their journey spins out of control when they lose their pal Fogell (Fake I.D. name: McLovin) to some unorthodox cops, sending them all over town in search of him and the alcohol they need in order to impress Jules (Seth’s crush, portrayed by Emma Stone) and the object of Evan’s affection, Becca (Martha MacIsaac). The characters they encounter along the way are funny, sure, but no one makes you laugh quite as much as Evan, Seth (Jonah Hill), and the two policemen, portrayed by Bill Hader and none other than Seth Rogen.
Once again, there are two parties attended in this movie, though in much closer proximity than Mean Girls. When Seth is hit (well, more like bumped) by a car, the driver offers to take him to a party so that they can acquire the booze they need for their high school shindig. The first soiree involves gun violence, laundry detergent, and menstruation, making it a bit atypical to say the least. The final destination, however, is everything a teen could hope for: shot-taking in the kitchen, bump-and-grinding on the dance floor, and the underdogs coming out on top… for the most part. Oh, and the aforementioned cops showed up to break up the party and reunite with their new friend Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). The film ended with Seth and Evan realizing the beauty of their friendship, and parting ways amicably.
Can’t Hardly Wait (1998)
This movie truly embodies its era, beginning with the character introductions, which highlight the key players: lovelorn optimist Preston (Ethan Embry, the nameless bass player from That Thing You Do); his snarky gal pal Denise (Lauren Ambrose, Claire on Six Feet Under); dumb jock Mike (Peter Facinelli, who may unfortunately be best known for playing the vampire doctor Carlisle Cullen in the Twilight movies); Harvard-bound nerd William (Charlie Korsmo, who played the little boy in Hook before this role, which was his last); OG-wannabe Kenny (Buffy’s Seth Green); and the object of Preston’s desire, Amanda (Jennifer Love Hewitt, the original Scream queen), the popular cheerleader who was recently dumped by the aforementioned Mike. They all come together at the party of the year, and everyone has a plan for their last high school hurrah. What’s not to love about this movie?
The party features couples groping on couches, plastic cups with more foam than beer, dudes just looking to score, gossipy girls spreading rumors, and stoners who can’t form an intelligent thought. Plus it has all of the 90s coming-of-age clichés: There’s the almost-romantic scene when childhood BFFs Denise and Kenny are forced to come to terms with how they grew apart. There’s the humiliation of the jerky popular guy (Mike), who bonds with the loser (William) who set out to destroy him. And then there’s the insane plot line that somehow convinces us that Preston and Amanda are destined to be together. But if overplayed story lines aren’t your thing, you could always watch it as a drinking game, and take a sip every time you spot a well-known celebrity in a surprise cameo. (I won’t give them away, but make sure you keep your eyes peeled at all times, and please don’t drive after playing.) Regardless, I’m sure you’ll manage to enjoy yourself (as I did) rocking out to hits by popular artists of the time like Run DMC, Blink-182, Smash Mouth, Third Eye Blind, Boys II Men, and Missy Elliot. And just TRY not sing along to Guns N’ Roses “Paradise City” and the two Barry Manilow tracks that Preston hears on the radio.
Sixteen Candles (1984)
No one is better known for capturing a slice of high school life quite like John Hughes, and his directorial debut Sixteen Candles features one of the greatest party scenes of the 80s. It stars Molly Ringwald as Sam, a sophomore whose sixteenth birthday falls on the same day as a high school dance, and the day before her sister’s wedding. Because of this, her family is too distracted to remember her birthday, and she spends the day moping and pining over Jake (Michael Schoeffling), a hot senior with a pretty but shallow girlfriend. Her best friend, Randy (Liane Alexandra Curtis), is no help, and even the geek, Ted, who pines for her (Anthony Michael Hall) is only able to boost her mood (and ego) a little. It’s funny because even though every time Sam speaks it’s to complain about her family – or the bus, or her body – this seems to make her all the more relatable. You find yourself wishing something would go right for this girl. And you’re not the only one: While Farmer Ted comes on too strong at first, they eventually form a platonic bond. The film’s humor comes from him, Sam’s little brother Mike (Justin Henry), and the foreign exchange student Long Duk Dong (Gedde Watanabe). The condescending bride-to-be big sister adds to that as well. Hughes manages to mix real emotion with some improbable circumstances, but when things do finally go right for Sam, it’s because Jake was intrigued by the girl who wouldn’t stop staring at him, not because he was really all that attracted to her.
After the dance comes the after-party, where everyone from the popular seniors to the freshman nerds come together to get completely wasted, fool around with exercise equipment, and just generally destroy the house of the host (Jake). Well, not everyone: Jake spends the night locked in his room, trying to call Sam. And Sam spends it on her couch, having a heart to heart with her dad about what it means to be a “dork.” When Jake and Ted form a kinship, the former realizes that there’s more to Sam than meets the eye, and he sets out to give her the birthday that she deserves.