Dir. Gurinder Chadha. 2008. UK . 100 mins.
Relighting Sixteen Candles in the UK for a new generation, Gurinder Chadha's Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging is an amiable if fairly anodyne teen outing which will face a tough challenge breaking out from its girlie demographic.
This target audience, however, will be unfamiliar with Angus's antecedents, which also include Gregory's Girl and Chadha's own Bend It Like Beckham, and that should be enough to turn this Paramount/Nickelodeon venture into a modest hit at home in the UK. A talky teenfest which brings nothing much that's new to the genre, Angus is slickly made, and boasts a knockout cast seemingly heralding a fun new generation of young British talent (no mean feat for them to shine, given some rampant scene-stealing by Angus the cat).
What it lacks, and what could hamper business outside the UK, is a driving force - a football game; a beauty pageant; anything to move the action along and stop the incessant teenage chatter (apart from grating by the end, it does alsopose a subtitling challenge). Ultimately, Angus is aboutsweetly-naive 14-year-old schoolgirl Georgia's (Groome) attempts to get hottie Robbie (Johnson) to be her boyfriend; thus, there would seem to be no hook here for boys, and Angus is a 12A rating, so the slice of the potential audience pie is very narrow for this slightly retro film.
Dramatically, there's the possibility ofGeorgia's family emigrating to New Zealand after dad Alan Davies lands a job there, and the 15th birthday party she wants to have in a nightclub, but neither the director or her three credited co-writers, adapting two of Louise Rennison's hit books, seem convinced about either of these plot devices and the action has a tendency to meander.
With a huge debt to John Hughes, whose Sixteen Candles bowed 24 years ago (meaning Molly Ringwald would now be sending out invites to her 40th), Chadha unspools the action in an Eastbourne grammar school, a coastal milieu far removed from the urban multicultural grittiness of her own Beckham. Georgia and her gang - her appealing otherworldly best friend Jas (Tomlinson), Ellen (Grewal) and Rosie (Henshaw) - obsess about boys and snogging, and go into overdrive when brothers Tom (Bourke) and Robbie arrive at the school.
In her Robbie ambitions, Georgia faces fierce competition from Slaggy Lindsay (Nixon) and schemes relentlessly to snare her man until, like all ugly ducklings in teen movies, she learns to accept herself and be the swan everyone over the age of 15 always knew she was (helpfully, the song over the opening credits is She's So Lovely).
Still, this deadly predictability won't stop younger audiences warming to Angus; there's some good, charming performances here from the two young leads, a lively, Busted/McFly-style band called The Stiff Dylans put together for the film (Robbie strums a guitar less than convincingly in it) which young girls will adore, and a cheerful, charming, otherworldly air to Angus, a far cry - and optimistically light relief - from the headlines normally surrounding today's teens.
Paramount Pictures International
Paramount Pictures International
Paul Mayeda Berges
From the books Angus Thongs And Full Frontal Snogging and Really Big Knickers by Louise Rennison