There are worse direct-to-DVD movies, though I hate that I’ve become as familiar with them as I have of late. There are so few movies released in theaters over the summer, I’m forced to resort to reviewing these. Spring Breakdown, however, would seem like an exception to the usual STD fare. It debuted at the Sundance Festival earlier this year, which all movies starring Parker Posey are required to do. I’m not sure, however, why the good folks at Sundance let this one into the festival. It’s a studio picture, and it feels like one — it’s sort of a older women’s version of the National Lampoon’s STD movies crossed with Revenge of the Nerds.
Spring Breakdown isn’t a very funny movie, either, but it’s nevertheless watchable in that “I’m doing work while it plays in the background” kind of way. It’s written by former “SNL” cast member, Rachel Dratch. It’s her version of Mean Girls, though Spring Breakdown is to Mean Girls what Tina Fey is to Rachel Dratch. But, Dratch was able to use her connections, and probably a few pity tears, to get some well-known faces into it, which is why it’s as watchable as it is. In addition to Parker Posey, Spring Breakdown also features Amy Poehler, Will Arnett, Seth Meyers, Amber Tamblyn, and Jane Lynch, who show up in either extended roles or as cameos.
The movie begins at a 1992 high-school talent show, where the three leads — Dratch, Poehler, and Posey — are doing an ear-concussive version of “Time After Time,” which nearly gets them booted off the stage (and predictably sets up the callback at the end of the movie). About to graduate, Gayle O’Brien (Poehler), Becky St. Germaine (Posey), and Judi Joskow (Dratch) are confident that, in their post high-school lives, they won’t be geeky, awkward, pathetic, bullied losers anymore.
Cut to 15 years later, and the trio is isn’t in any better shape, socially speaking. Judi is engaged to a closet case (Meyers); Gayle teaches a dog obedience school and can’t even get a date with a blind man (Arnett); and Becky is a cat lady and an put-upon office assistant to Jane Lynch’s ballbusting U.S. Senator (Lynch, as a shotgun wielding Texas senator who boasts that she has a nice set of hairy nuts is, typically, the movie’s lone scene stealer).
The hook comes when the Senator, who is up for a Vice Presidential slot, asks Becky to go to South Padre to keep an eye on her daughter, Ashley (Tamblyn), who she believes is a hard-partying sorority girl. In truth, Ashley is another pathetic loser, and the only “sorority” she belongs to is Ren Faire. The trip, however, gives Becky, Gayle, and Judi a chance to do-over their college experience. They get involved with a group of vapid popular girls (including Sophie Monk and Kristin Cavallari), who become their Alpha Betas. Studio approved hijinx and a formula driven happy ending ensues, complete with that talent show callback, an embarrassing version of Wilson Phillip’s “Hold On” in front of a college spring break crowd.
I’d expected, or at least hoped, that with the assembled cast and a slot in Sundance, that Spring Breakdown would’ve at least been a light feminist comedy that took some swipes at teen farces. But instead of satirizing the genre, it falls into it, face first, and wallows around in the muck with its top off. The late 30s threesome gets involved in wink-free Salsa wrestling, drunken make-out sessions, drunken parties, and drunken hook-ups. There’s even a nod toward “Girls Gone Wild” called “Girls Gone Bonkers” that’s not in the least mocking. Or funny. But neither is the rest of the movie. And with a cast that included Poehler and Posey, it’s inexcusable that, save for Jane Lynch, the best part of the movie is Seth Meyers’ stereotypical closet case.
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba.