In 2004's legitimately amazing, kookoo-bananas, motorcycle-centric, action-dramedy-fantasy Torque, director Joseph Kahn unleashed all his Britney Spears-y music video experience and crazy ideas about what's okay to hurl at an audience in the direction of multiplex crowds who thought they'd bought a ticket for another dose of grumpy Vin Diesel machismo. They had not. It wasn't the big hit it should have been, but it did feature women involved in stylized martial arts bike-fighting in front of mega-sized, Josie and the Pussycats-style product placement. Think Pee Wee Herman taking a flying spill on his bike, landing on a Mountain Dew extreme sports TV spot and then announcing, "I meant to do that."
So here Kahn comes again with a high school comedy that vrooms out of the gate by insulting "that stupid movie Torque," before frantically Jenga-piling the screen with Scream-style serial murders, half-insect/half-jock bullies, Hughes-ian library detentions, Godard-ian title card intrusions ("THE MOVIE DETENTION IS AGAINST DRUNK DRIVING EVEN IF YOU'RE SUICIDAL" shouts one) and a time-traveling bear. Oh, wait, sorry, there are also spaceships, furious Canadians and dance numbers set to a string of '90s hits like "MmmBop," a brain-jangling sugar-blast that gets its own full-screen final credit: "MmmBop by HANSON," just in case you'd forgotten. The only way to adequately describe this filmic belly flop into the shallow pool of instant teen nostalgia is to call it what it is: Parker Lewis Can't Lose meets Three O'Clock High meets Heathers meets a dog chasing its tail before latching on tight and moving straight up its own butt.
The Hunger Games' Josh Hutcherson -- who also executive produced and who, for the purposes of this film, might more likely be known as Firehouse Dog's Josh Hutcherson -- is the biggest name in the teen cast, playing a wryly observant skateboarder at the center of a string of murders on the week leading up to prom. But prom is really beside the point because the movie doesn't actually care. In fact, the killings, based on a fictitious horror movie franchise, are also beside the point. Why bother to stop or linger or try to make a plot make sense when there are a million more jokes to cram in about Oasis as a Beatles cover band, My So-Called Life and kids time traveling back to 1992 in order to give birth to themselves? Somebody on board must have read Chuck Klosterman's essay about time travel, "Tomorrow Rarely Knows," and decided that, since the very concept ultimately made no sense and would eventually cause the entire premise to erase itself, and since the Back to the Future series was clearly underwritten, that this movie would make hyperactive, goofy oblivion its reason to exist. The question is can you deal?