Spring Break Comedies: Even More Depressing Than The Real Thing
There’s a weird thing that happens when you Google “spring break comedies.” Lots of sites have lists, but most include any movie (American Pie, Van Wilder, XOXO) that happens to include teenagers, parties, and the promise of sex. Sure, a spring break comedy will include teenagers, parties, and the promise of sex -- but we need more!
Unfortunately, we never get it. Spring break should be a natural setting for the kind of outrageous teen comedy they don’t make anymore. It has everything -- beautiful locations, an excuse to throw unlikely people together for a focused period of time, and a real-world excuse for insanity to happen. Couldn’t some enterprising comedy filmmaker reimagine Animal House in Fort Lauderdale? Booksmart in the Bahamas? Why not Bridesmaids on a beach?
Instead, we get From Justin to Kelly. Here’s ComedyNerd’s history of the terrible spring break comedy -- and what we’d do to fix them.
From Justin to Kelly
These days, most everyone knows pop superstar Kelly Clarkson, but you might be wondering -- who’s this Justin?
That’s Justin Guarini, runner-up to Clarkson on the first-ever season of American Idol. Producers hoped the show would be a hit, but when it turned into a phenomenon, the question was how to capitalize?
So, in one of the most blatant money grabs in recent memory, Idol producers hustled together a hasty excuse for a spring break movie, throwing the two reality show contestants -- who were not actors -- into a dopey story about finding love on the beach, lots of dopey pop songs included.
It was so bad that Clarkson now says she hoped she wasn’t going to win Idol because “I knew you had to make that movie.”
How we’d fix it: Besides a decent script? Kelly Clarkson brought her sunny charisma to the beach, but how about an upgrade from Justin Guarini, who was fine as a reality show contestant but not exactly movie star material.
22 Jump Street
This one’s actually pretty good, though like all sequels, not up to the standards of the original. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are back as undercover cops, graduating from pretending to be high school students to pretending to be college students.
Here’s the problem: 22 Jump Street isn’t about spring break, it’s just set there. But it does have some fun spring-break-adjacent scenes, including some badass beach fights with Tatum.
How we’d fix it: We wouldn’t. 22 works fine as an undercover cop comedy -- no need to turn it into something it isn't. At least it’s actually funny.
Give Spring Break credit for trying to do what we’re looking for -- capture the sexy craziness of spring break in a laugh-out-loud comedy. Unfortunately, the film goes oh-for-three in the crazy, sexy, and funny categories.
Spring Break stars unknowns David Knell and Steve Bassett (the dude doesn’t even have a picture on IMDB) as two dorks who are unlikely to find romance at any point during their college careers. The film’s big problem, according to Roger Ebert? “It doesn’t know that girls are people too.”
How we’d fix it: We’d start with a production budget. How does a movie that mostly takes place on a sunny beach appear so grainy and underlit? And we’re with Ebert -- would it kill Spring Break to have a few female characters with their own storylines?
Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise
Like 22 Jump Street, Nerds in Paradise isn’t so much a spring break movie as it is a Revenge of the Nerds movie with a spring break backdrop.
In fact, Nerds in Paradise has almost the exact same plot as the original, just set in a new location. The irrationally confident nerds show up at the beach, certain that they’ll be loved and admired by America’s frat jocks and sorority sisters. Instead, they’re treated like … well, 1980s nerds.
Believe it or not, this was an original comic conceit when the original was released. Nerds as heroes? No way! But repeating the same jokes and stereotypes from the original, which already weren’t aging well, wasn’t a formula for comedy brilliance.
How we’d fix it: The Nerds movies are full of problematic scenes that haven’t aged well, but how about taking another look at their central premise: Nerds are people too (but let’s laugh at how disgustingly unattractive they are.) The movies try to have it both ways – giving the nerds some love while making fun of their high-waisted pants, limp wrists, and appetite for boogers.
Where the Boys Are ‘84
Both Where the Boys Are ‘84 and the 1960 original get credit for putting the young women front and center -- something most spring break movies hadn’t considered.
You’d think that would have made Roger Ebert happy, but he was turned off by “the usual Hot Bod contests and drunken orgies, all written, acted, and directed at such a plodding pace that Valium seems to be the week's drug of choice.”
We’ll give Where the Boys Are ‘84 credit for actually being a movie about spring break, but there’s not a lot else to recommend it.
How we’d fix it: Maybe cast some real college students? Star Lisa Hartman was pushing 30 in 1984; Lorna Luft was a few years past it, the other leads were right there with them. No shame in being 30, but these ladies have a little too much gravitas to be playing 19.
This movie has its fans, but ComedyNerd isn’t one of them. Ugh.
We get that Spring Breakers is subverting conventional movie depictions of young ladies in candy-colored bikinis, but subversion alone doesn’t make for entertainment. The same lines of dialogue are repeated endlessly while the camera, like James Franco’s tattooed fingers, roams up and down bikini bottoms. t’s ninety minutes that actually feels like a week of too much sun.
If you ever wanted to convince your younger siblings not to go to spring break? This movie ought to do it.
How we’d fix it: Show it to prospective students of James Franco’s acting classes as a precautionary tale.
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Top image: TriStar Pictures