‘The Outcasts’ a poor approximation of teens’ actual lives
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In the opening scene of the “Mean Girls” knockoff titled “The Outcasts,” our heroine tells us about life at Richard Nixon High School, as we see a plaque in front of the school telling us it’s “The Home of the Minutemen.”
There’s even a statue of a Minuteman atop the brick wall, with tarnished brass letters telling us this is indeed “Richard Milhous Nixon High School.” A nerdy kid is dangling by his backpack from the Minuteman’s rifle.
OK, what? What’s the connection between Nixon and —
Never mind. In literally the first minute of this movie, our expectations are lowered into believing this is going to be a broad, jokey comedy with no interest in reflecting anything resembling anyone’s high school experience.
That assumption would be spot on.
“The Outcasts” is not a good movie but it is quite the curiosity for a number of reasons, for example:
When is this movie taking place?
After Victoria Justice’s Jodi tells us about how Richard Nixon High has the usual collections of cliques and stereotypes, not to mention the obligatory popular-beautiful-sadistic girl named Whitney (Claudia Lee) who runs the school, Jodi meets up with her geeky-brilliant best friend Mindy (Eden Sher), who says “ ‘X-Files’ is on tonight!” and laments she has a family Jazzercise class that evening.
We then cut to Jodi in her bedroom, logging onto what appears to be an early edition of an iMac.
Based on these cultural clues, one can assume “The Outcasts” takes place in the late 1990s or early 2000s, yes?
But then Jodi has this to say to her computer about the song she’s about to play: “I’d rather admit Taylor Swift’s music has touched my cold dark heart than show it to anybody.” And then we get cell phones and references to the actor Adam Scott and Instagram and “The Big Bang Theory” and other indications this movie is actually set in the now.
What is happening!?!
Anyway. After the horrible terrible nasty mean-spirited Whitney subjects Jodi and Mindy to a humiliating prank at a party, Jodi and Mindy and their fellow outcasts organize a revolution against the status quo.
Most of the characters look like they’re in their 20s and talk in speeches and one-liners that sound penned by writers in their 40s. Justice’s Jodi sports a wacky hat and glasses and bangs, as if she has seen every teen movie about the wallflower who blossoms in a slow-motion walk down the staircase. Frank Whaley plays her single father, who exists mainly to have heart-to-heart talks with his daughter as she rolls her eyes.
Once the outcasts turn the tables on the popular kids, it leads to some not-so-shocking revelations and some fractures in longtime relationships. And yes, there’s a big prom scene, and the pop culture references keep on coming fast and furious without being particularly clever, and lessons are learned and all that jazz.
Before it was even over, I was already forgetting about it.
Swen Group presents a film directed by Peter Hutchings and written by Dominique Ferrari and Suzanne Wrubel. Rated PG-13 (for crude and suggestive content, language and some teen partying). Running time: 96 minutes. Opens Friday at AMC Woodridge and on demand.