I expected to be underwhelmed by this. I thought it would basically be disposable fluff. It kind of is, but it’s also more than that. “Teens make a pact to lose their virginity” is a story that has been told many times in films, albeit usually with guys. And there we get the first big difference: female sexuality is oddly underdeveloped in stories we see. Judging by what we see in films or on television, sex is something that women put up with in order to get flowers from men, as a means to persuade men to do something, or to get pregnant. The very notion that maybe, just maybe, women might ACTUALLY ENJOY sex is woefully underrepresented. So it’s nice to see a film which treats women as sexual beings, and not just in a “men will conquer their resistance to it” kind of way. It even has a gay sub-plot, albeit one which is kind of underdeveloped, which is a shame as the way that Gideon Adlon plays the character is brilliant. Most of the cast play their parts brilliantly actually. It would be easy for them to not care and to phone their performances in, yet almost everyone here is thriving to do the best with what they’re given. Luckily, what they’re given is really good. The script is incredibly funny, gross and puerile, but funny. This got some of the loudest laughs I’ve heard in a while, not just “polite titters”, but genuine belly laughs until it hurts (actually caused one person in the cinema to choke on their popcorn).
The decision to split the time between the two sets of people (the parents, and the teens) is a great move, both in terms of marketing potential (opens it up to a much wider audience), and in terms of story. It means that you can have emotional heartfelt moments, and then a scene of someone taking a beer enema, and because they’re happening to two separate groups of characters, it doesn’t feel too much of an emotional whiplash. The characters are well developed as well, all of the main six are fully developed characters, all with their own unsaid backstories and history. For some reason I don’t see this becoming as big a hit as American Pie, but, honestly, I think it’s better. The writing is smarter, the jokes are funnier, and it’s more grounded. Also, it isn’t (yet) diluted by way too many sequels. I think you could probably get one or two sequels out of this, there’s enough interest in the characters to see them develop into future situations, but it would need to be a really great story for it to work. Also, you cannot recast. John Cena is a lot better at comedy than someone as inexperienced as him should be, his delivery and facial expressions stop JUST short of being over the top. There’s not much chance of him challenging The Rock or Batista for the best wrestler-turned-actor, and he’ll never be in a film as good as They Live, but he won’t be an embarrassment and could easily lead his own sitcom. Ike Barinholtz also plays his character with a lot more pathos and subtlety than you’d expect from the character. This film definitely belongs to the teen cast though, and they nail it. Not a weak link or moment in their performance. Geraldine Viswanathan, in particular, deserves plaudits for her performance. With the right roles, she could easily develop into someone at an Anne Hathaway-like level, definitely one to watch out for.
So in summary, I would recommend watching this film, it won’t be your favourite film, but it will make you laugh. It’s not perfect, it features an annoyingly high amount of scenes in the trailer which aren’t in the film for some reason (like at least half the trailer), which is just odd, and the music choices could have been better in some moments. But other than that I highly recommend giving it a go.