Thursday, July 22, 2010

Degrassi Takes Manhattan: Movie Review

Before we get started, make a note that I really only saw 2/3 of this movie, so it won't be totally complete, but my sisters told me what happens in the end so basically I saw the whole movie.

Anyway, in late elementary school/early high school I used to watch Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High reruns on CBC after school, and was excited to watch Degrassi: The Next Generation when it premiered.  I have seen most of the episodes in the 10-season run and while I wouldn't go so far as to call myself a fan, I have enjoyed watching the show and following the characters' stories for the most part.

Degrassi has always been a show that centred around teen issues - any issue you can think of, the characters have probably dealt with it at some point.  But the nice thing about the old Degrassi and TNG's first few seasons was that the only thing making the series unrealistic and unrelatable for teen fans was the ridiculously high number of issues the same characters dealt with week after week - other than being bombarded with problems, the characters generally came from middle class families, went to a public school, had acne and bad haircuts, and wore t-shirts and jeans  - they what one might call normal kids.

Someone once pointed out that the series began to change when longtime fan Kevin Smith asked to guest star and the series created a plotline about Kevin Smith shooting a movie at Degrassi, kissing Caitlin Ryan, and giving dating advice to the characters.  No offense, but Kevin Smith coming to hang out at your school isn't realistic.  Getting Kevin Smith involved with the issues gave the series an almost surreal feel.  Still, the Kevin Smith episodes were pretty early in the series and usually when he left the series was able to get back to normal... sort of.  Kevin Smith did help to kickstart the Hollywood career of one of the characters (as in, the character became a Hollywood actress, not the actress got a real movie career) and after she became "famous" (which the show never actually focused on), a lot of other characters began making it big as famous musicians, working in the fashion industry, etc.  Eventually, especially over the past couple of seasons, the show started hiring better looking actors and having more sexually charged plotlines, no doubt to compete with the shift in content of other high school dramas like the extremely inappropriate Gossip Girl and 90210.

It makes me sad that Degrassi ended up selling out to try to blend in rather than stay true to its original premise.  In the new episodes, the issues are still there but they seem to take a backseat to major storylines about dating and friendship drama and being rich.  I suppose it's nice that the characters are allowed to develop more, but I liked the Degrassi that you could distinguish from other teen dramas because it was first and foremost a show about issues.

Which now finally brings me to my discussion of the latest Degrassi movie, Degrassi Takes Manhattan.  It was so, so, soooooo bad.  Like, seriously.  I am not kidding, it seemed like bad fanfiction.  Did they draw plotlines out of a suggestion box?

Two major characters who have been in the series from season 1, Emma and Spinner, who have never really been that close of friends, got drunk at Niagara Falls and started making out and got married.  Then they wanted to get divorced but then they were like "Hey this has been the happiest week of my life, let's really get married."  Hey Degrassi here is a great opportunity to run with the issue of teen marriage and why it is not a good idea... but apparently (I skipped out on the ending, remember) the movie showed this teen marriage after dating for a week as a really positive and smart idea.  Good one, Degrassi.

Some characters that were CLEARLY added into the series to compete with Gossip Girl, the extremely rich Declan and Fiona (so why do they go to a public community school again???), moved back to Manhattan for the summer with no parents and Declan got his girlfriend Holly J an internship with TVM (MTV) so she could come with him.  But then Fiona also got an internship with TVM and tried to make life terrible for Holly J because she was jealous that she was dating her brother because she was in love with her TWIN BROTHER????  Creepy teen fanfiction alert.  The climax of this storyline happened when Fiona KISSED her brother to try and make Holly J jealous.  WHAT???

The final really boring storyline was that this other character named Jane was also in New York and met this creepy 35 year old man in Central Park (he wasn't supposed to be creepy or 35 but he tote was) and joined his band as the new singer, made out with him, but then he got back together with his GF so she was sad and apparently she tried to go stop Spinner and Emma's wedding but then didn't because she saw how happy Emma made Spinner.  Oh yeah, this was because Jane and Spinner had dated for like 3 years.  Are you kidding me, how does any of this make sense at all.

Final verdict:  worst fanfiction ever and most unrealistic movie ever.  The moment I realized how bad this movie really was was when I saw that Jessi from Jessi and Dan from The Hills Aftershow was one of the guest stars and I said to myself, "Jessi, you host The Hills Aftershow.  You are so above this movie." It was that bad.

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