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June 29, 2009 - Image 9

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2009-06-29

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Monday, June 29, 2009
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

9

'American Teenager'
woefully unconvincing

By BRIGID KILCOIN
DailyArts Writer
Ever scrounged for change to
buydiapersor worriedaboutfind-
ing a daycare
provider while
cramming for *
your biology
midterm and The Secret
searching for fe of the
a homecoming
date? AllCan
"The Secret Teenger
Life of the
American Mondays
Teenager" - at 8 p.m.
an ABC Family ABC Family
drama detail-
ing the life of a
pregnant 10th-grader who strug-
gles to balance the mundane rig-
ors of high school with the recent
birth of her first child - has the
potential to paint a picture of
the life of real adolescents all
over the country. But it fails: The
show's wholly artificial nature
creates something impossible to
identify with.
After an infuriatingly long
series of flashbacks from the sec-
ond season of the show, season
three opens with a conversation
between focal point Amy Juer-
gens (newcomer Shailene Wood-
ley) and her mother Anne (Molly
Ringwald, "Pretty in Pink") in
which Amy complains that her
mother isn't doing enough to
help care for Amy's newborn
son John. Amy's immaturity is
one of the show's biggest flaws.
It's difficult to believe that even
the most self-centered teenager
could be so unaffected by moth-
erhood. Her constant sense of
entitlement puts the show in the
uncomfortable position of hav-
ing an innately unlikeable pro-
tagonist.
Almost every character on the
show is solely one-dimension-
al. Grace, a religious teenager,
makes reference to her faith in
almost every scene. Wooden per-
formances from the supporting
actors, especially Amy's younger
sister Ashley (newcomer India
Eisley), add to the show's over-
whelming sense of falsity. Amy's
father George ( Mark Derwins,
"24") delivers his lines in a gruff
monotone that makes him appear
absurdly angry no matter what is

occurring onscreen.
Show creator Brenda Hamp-
ton seems to have modeled
"Secret Life" after her previous
program "7th Heaven," and the
characters on both shows share
wildly dysfunctional views
on love and relationships and
an overriding obsession with
Jesus. Literally all of Amy's
friends - from Christian zealot
Grace to sheltered Ben (new-
comer Ken Baumann) - are
constantly preoccupied with
losing their virginity. Even the
lives of the show's adult char-
acters revolve around romantic
conquests and manipulating
other people's relationships.
This overriding focus contra-
dicts the show's pro-abstinence
theme and seems an odd choice
when the mistakes that lead to
Amy Juergen's pregnancy are
bemoaned constantly.
Unintentionally
the funniest
show on TV.
Plot twist after ridiculous plot
twist is handled with the utmost
sincerity. For instance, see the
scene in which Grace's mother
and brother walk into the house
crying after receiving the news
that her husband has died in a
plane crash, only to be met by
a glowing Grace and boyfriend
informingthem that the pair just
had sex for the first time. Scenes
like this would make the viewer
think the show was supposed to
be a parody of an overly intense
teen drama if they weren't so
deathly serious.
While the word "good" would
not come to mind when describ-
ing "Secret Life," it's nothing if
not entertaining. Viewers have
to marvel at the sheer ingenuity
of the writingteam in stretching
a single pregnancy across three
seasons and the totally implau-
sible storylines that somehow
manage to reach new levels
of implausibility every week.
"Secret Life" might uninten-
tionally be the funniest show on
television.

Dumb summer fun

Director Michael Bay other vehicles/electronic devices
that turn into robot people called
crafts-another Transformers - are working with
the military to kill Decepticons, the
brilliantly bad film naturally evil race. In their efforts,
they come across a truck that fore-
By BLAKE GOBLE tells the prophecy of "The Fallen,"
DailyArts Writer a super bad Decepticon that wants
to destroy Earth, claim our sun and
You're always entitled to diss show off his lava-filled veins.
Michael Bay's latest bad creation. Of course, the Autobots must stop
Roger .Ebert recently likened these evil Decepticons. And that's
"Transformers: about it. If you want to know about
Revenge of the Sam (Shia Labeouf, "Eagle Eye") and
Fallen" to the Mikaela (Megan "toe-thumb" Fox,
American auto Transformers: "How to Lose Friends & Alienate
industry -- use- People") and what they're up to,then
less, outdated Revenge of see the movie. They justdon't matter
and out of touch the Fallen in lieu of alien robots ninja-fighting
with the gen- their asses off in order to destroy a
eral public. Fair At Quality16 pyramid. There's also something in
comparison, but and Showcase the film aboutshardsof the last film's
here's a different Dreamworks MacGuffin, the Allspark (some laser
one. "Revenge" is machine in the pyramids)and Sam's
like one of those destiny. All perfunctory.
behemoth packs of Costco American Now, what constitutes value in.a
cheese-bloating, bulky,unnecessary film that would otherwise be con-
and a little bit on the costly side. But sidered American car and/or mili-
the thing is, I like American cheese. tary porn? Well, "Revenge" is just
Complain all you want about the plain dumb summer fun. Emphasis
obvious atrocities of Bay's wholly on the dumb.
flammable space opera. - horny It's easy to complain about what a
robots, allegedly "black" robots, loud and obnoxious event this movie
femme bots - but there's sdniething is. Again, it's filled with jive-talk-
credible and ambitious on display in ing, white-trash robots and decep-
"Revenge." In its lunacy, it could be ticles (you'll get it if you see it). But
argued that "Revenge" is exciting, "Revenge" is a film that isn't afraid
adventurous and entertaining. You to be brassy in its lunkheadedness.
know, the type of movie you more or Like "The Mummy Returns" or
less come to expect in June. "Godzilla" before it, "Revenge" has
Sequel in a nutshell: The Auto- big money, little brains and a will-
bots - i.e. the morally good cars and ingness to not take itself seriously. It

wants to notice how silly its produc-
tion is, which is endearing. Unlike
last May's "Terminator," it uses the
same size budget to actually have
some fun and not awkwardly dry
hump someone's legacy. It's a show-
and-tell spectacle.
Bay knows how to make a crass,
fantasticsetpiece.Here,he'sworking
on a grand scale, and giant machine
monsters and advanced outer-space
machines still using knives intimi-
dates. Plus, his signature spastic,
overactive sense of humor is here
too (come on, a jetTransformer farts
a parachute). Groan about logic, dia-
logue and drama all you want, but
that's just not Bay's style. Care about
the "Transformers" legacy or how
well Bay makes a wholly satisfying
sequel? Tough luck.
Bay makes brilliantly bad films.
Ever see "Armageddon" or "Bad
Boys II?" But there's always a
baroque tastelessness coming
through and it's quite effective.
He's got style, and damn if you can't
get into it.
If you want to laugh at Bay for
how he depicts college life in the
film (slam dancing at Princeton with
music video lights?), great. You want
to make fun of people screaming
things like "not on my watch!" while
sweating? Fine. And if you loathe the
film's inherently conservative poli-
tics, you're in the right. We'll argue
this all later. But seriously, just go
see it and have some fun. It's all Bay
and Optimus would want.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm
going to Costco.

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