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John Tucker Must Die
cast: Metcalfe, Arielle Kebble, Sophia Bush, Brittany Snow, and Ashanti

director: Betty Thomas

86 minutes (15) 2006
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
20th Century Fox DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Alasdair Stuart
Kate Spencer (Brittany Snow) has seen it all before. She watches as John Tucker (Jesse Metcalfe) cheats on all three of his girlfriends and gets away scot-free. Until, that is, 'Black Wednesday'. When cheerleader Heather (Ashanti), vegan eco-enthusiast Beth (Sophia Bush) and journalist Carrie (Arielle Kebbel) end up taking gym at the same time, the secret is revealed and suddenly, the 'invisible new girl' is the only person who can help them get their revenge.

Echoing the earlier Mean Girls, John Tucker Must Die uses the quest for vengeance to illuminate its characters. They're an engaging bunch too, with Snow as a particularly likeable and deeply cynical lead, recognising Tucker's tactics thanks to her years of experience with her mother's feckless boyfriends. This superiority is neatly balanced by how she interacts with the three girlfriends, all of whom are completely at home in school in exactly the same way she isn't. All three turn in impressive performances too, especially Bush as the cheerfully self-righteous Beth, and Kebbel, playing the exact opposite of her role in Aquamarine here as a likeable if strait-laced honours student.

At the centre of them all, Jesse Metcalfe is clearly having great fun as Tucker. Best known for Desperate Housewives, here Metcalfe proves he has solid comic timing and an unusually sympathetic screen presence, especially in the second half of the film where Tucker becomes a surprisingly likeable figure. Whilst the concept of having him as a monster is more immediately appealing (and provides ample opportunity for comedy, as demonstrated by Rachel McAdams in Mean Girls), this slightly more complicated Tucker is a far more interesting figure. Similarly, Penn Badgeley turns in a good performance as Tucker's sympathetic, long-suffering younger brother.

Despite this good work and a script that occasionally crackles with some really sharp dialogue, John Tucker Must Die never quite takes off. There's the promise in the opening half hour of something as funny and well observed as Mean Girls and, whilst the ending is unusual, it's a promise that the film never quite delivers on. The film's still great fun, but it could have been much, much more than the sum of its parts.

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