‘Senior Year’: Cheesy comedy puts Rebel Wilson in high school at 37
Awake after a coma, former cheerleader tries to be popular with today’s teens in forgettable Netflix film.
One of the most endearing escapist confections of the last five years is the 2019 Rebel Wilson vehicle “Isn’t it Romantic,” with Wilson playing a cynical architect in New York City who believes all rom-coms are sugary nonsense—until she gets knocked out during a mugging, wakes up and finds herself IN a romantic comedy, complete with the wisecracking gay best friend, the impossibly dreamy suitor, a Manhattan that’s filled with flowers and friendly people, etc., etc. It’s a pure delight.
You can catch “Isn’t It Romantic” on any number of streaming platforms for a few bucks, and I strongly encourage you to do so in favor of checking out the 2022 Rebel Wilson vehicle “Senior Year” on Netflix, with Wilson once again playing a character who gets knocked out and wakes up in a different world—only this time around, the coma lasts for 20 years, and when she wakes up, she’s in a terribly unfunny, flatly executed and cheesy alleged comedy.
Filmed with all the panache of a Hallmark quickie movie, “Senior Year” has an extended prologue in the early 2000s in which 17-year-old Stephanie (Angourie Rice), an Australian native now living in America, has transformed herself from nerd into cheer captain and is about to become prom queen when she suffers a horrendous fall during a cheerleading stunt gone wrong.
Netflix presents a film directed by Alex Hardcastle and written by Andrew Knauer, Arthur Pielli and Brandon Scott Jones. Rated R (for sexual material, language and brief teen drinking/drug use). Running time: 113 minutes. Available now on Netflix.
Cut to some 20 years later, and when Stephanie wakes up, she’s Rebel Wilson and she’s 37 years old. Remarkably, Stephanie is suddenly fully recovered, but as the doctor points out, “Physically she’s aged, but mentally she’s 17.”
After very little fanfare from the media, zero follow-up visits to the doctor and a few cheap times-have-changed jokes in which Stephanie learns you can’t say “gay” that way anymore and phones are now amazing, Stephanie decides she’ll go back to high school and reclaim the prom queen popularity that was stolen from her all those years ago. Conveniently enough, her best friend Martha (Mary Holland) is now the school principal, while her other pal Seth (Sam Richardson), who always had a crush on her, is the school librarian. When Stephanie joins the cheer squad, she learns how much things have changed when she hears cheers like this:
The Earth is smoking
We need new laws
Turtles are choking on plastic straws!
Yeah, nobody’s doing cheers like that anywhere ever.
As Stephanie tries to court favor with the popular influencer Bri Loves (Jade Bender), who has millions of followers, she renews her rivalry with Bri’s mother Tiffany (Zoe Chao), who has married Stephanie’s high school boyfriend, Blaine (Justin Hartley), and she decides she will once again campaign for prom queen. Hoo boy.
Rebel Wilson is inherently funny and she manages to wring a few laughs out of the sitcom script, but the thin plot is stretched out by the inclusion of multiple dance numbers, to the tune of Britney Spears’ “Crazy” and then we get another number set to “Fast (Motion”) by Saweetie and also a routine choreographed to a dance mix of Kelly Clarkson’s “A Moment Like This” and every inch of it feels forced. “Senior Year” doesn’t come across as condescending or cynical; it’s just harmless and sweetly dopey and instantly forgettable.