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'Senior Year' review: Rebel Wilson high school comedy flunks out

By Adam Graham

Talk about senioritis.

"Senior Year" is an insipid high school comedy about a varsity cheerleader who falls into a coma and awakens 20 years later and plots to claim the prom queen crown she missed out on. Do you find references to 2002 hilarious? Then this movie is your jam. Otherwise this dreadful fish out of water story is about as fresh as an episode of "The Jamie Kennedy Experiment," one of the few 2002 properties the movie doesn't mention by name.

Angourie Rice ("Mare of Easttown") plays Stephanie Conway, an Aussie transplant who ditches her boring friends and diets her way to popularity in high school in the early '00s. During a pep rally near the end of her senior year, she's dropped to the floor while performing a cheerleading routine and goes into a coma for 20 years.

When she awakens — the coma and its aftereffects are taken about as seriously as they would be in an "SNL" sketch — she's played by Rebel Wilson, and she's keen to pick up right where she left off. But first she has to learn about this new crazy world we're living in: smart phones? Virality? People being more sensitive toward marginalized groups? What is going on here?

Steph quickly learns the ways of Instagram and re-enrolls in school to finish out her senior year, and to say that "Billy Madison" handled an adult's return to the classroom with more practicality is an understatement.

Her nemesis is the most popular girl in school, Brie (Jade Bender), daughter of her old rival Tiffany (Zoe Chao), who weaponizes her wokeness in a way that almost becomes a statement on the modern tendency of turning advocacy into a hashtag, but stops short of taking an actual stand or saying anything meaningful on the topic.

"Senior Year" instead becomes a tired parade of namedrops to popular things around the turn of the millennium — "TRL," Tamagotchi, "Darrin's Dance Grooves," Von Dutch — mentioned and then moved on from like citations on a Wikipedia page. Generic lessons about individualism and the emptiness of social media come way late, after the movie spends most of its time bowing at the alter of Likes and social engagement.

A lot of "Senior Year" might go down easier if Stephanie, both in past and present form, wasn't such a noxious person. But she's an unrepentant social climber with a bad attitude to match; she's the side character you dislike while rooting for a main character who isn't present here. (The stand-ins for audience sympathy are her old pals Martha, played as an adult by Mary Holland, and Seth, played by Sam Richardson, who are too thinly sketched to merit any real investment.)

The movie's R-rated edge — Steph's most frequent reaction is "what the slut?" and "sucks weins" is a favorite descriptor of things subpar — never quite finds the right groove and feels overly needy, especially when set against such a conventional teenage storyline. (Picture "Never Been Kissed" with raunch, and you see why that's not such a good idea.)

Television veteran Alex Hardcastle, making his feature film debut, stages several effective dance sequences, including one rather spot-on recreation of Britney Spears' "Crazy" music video. Otherwise "Senior Year" is as vapid as its lead character. Leave it in the past.

———

'SENIOR YEAR'

Grade: D-

MPAA rating: R (for sexual material, language and brief teen drinking/drug use)

Running time: 1:53

How to watch: Now on Netflix

———

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Dive Deeper:
‘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.
Senior Year review – Rebel Wilson fails Netflix high school comedy
A miscast lead is one of many issues plaguing a broad and unfunny attempt to recapture the spirit of films…
Rebel Wilson oozes old Hollywood glamour at premiere for new Netflix film Senior Year
Aussie actress Rebel Wilson made sure she was the star of the show as she arrived at the premiere of…
Haley Lu Richardson: ‘I’ve retired from playing teenagers’
The 27-year-old star of Edge of Seventeen, Columbus and Unpregnant is growing up with indie Montana Story and a role…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Film Review: ‘Firestarter’ remake fails to ignite
Zac Efron and Ryan Kiera Armstrong star in this new adaptation of Stephen King's 1980 novel about a preteen girl…
Coronation Street, Emmerdale, EastEnders and Hollyoaks stars who started out as child stars
Their careers started elsewhere and at a very young age
Get all your news in one place