Paramount // 2008 // 100 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge William Lee (Retired) // January 21st, 2010
"Ace Gang, it's boy-stalking time."
Movies for teenage boys, be they adventures of horny virgins or special effects-laden brain rot, are a dime a dozen. What is there for girls that have outgrown the princess fantasies but aren't quite ready for sparkly vampires? The latest from director Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham) offers something to fill that content gap. Though the script is somewhat predictable, Chadha's light touch keeps the proceedings charming and sweet.
Georgia Nicolson (Georgia Groome, London to Brighton), about to turn 15, is determined to put her little girl persona behind her. So she sets her sights on two things: having the biggest birthday party ever at a real nightclub and pulling in a boyfriend. It will take a lot to convince her totally uncool parents, played by Alan Davies and Karen Taylor, to rent a nightclub but the boy who just moved to Eastborne might fit the bill as her sex god.
The coming-of-age movie Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging is based on two books by Louise Rennison. I haven't read them but I understand the books are written as diary entries by the heroine Georgia. The comparison with Bridget Jones makes sense as Georgia is likewise neurotic, boy-obsessed, lovable but flawed. Along with her friends Jas (Eleanor Tomlinson, The Illusionist), Ellen (Manjeeven Grewal) and Rosie (Georgia Henshaw), they are the Ace Gang.
While the movie is clearly targeting teenage girls, it has qualities that should appeal broadly. Firstly, Georgia is a very likable protagonist we can naturally root for. She is articulate but still naive in the way that teens are. The script is honest about what girls talk about and it's refreshing that it touches on body image issues without being crass or preachy. The writing is peppered with slang and contemporary references that sound more amusing delivered with an English accent. "Snogging" replaces kissing, by the way, and I laughed to hear one girl dread looking like "Zitney Spears."
Boys are on the girls' minds but, in this movie, teen romance gets a pretty tame treatment. Consider the object of Georgia's attention, Robbie (Aaron Johnson, The Thief Lord) the "sex god." He has a twin brother, loves cats, works in his mother's organic food store and plays bass in a rock band. Unlike some other boys at their school, Robbie does not light his farts to get laughs. Toss in a couple of appreciative slow motion walking shots of Robbie and my inner 14-year-old girl is swooning.
For the most part, the characters in Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging are a cut smarter than your average (American) movie teens. It is a relief when simple misunderstandings can be resolved in a conversation rather than linger as a major plot issue. The second half of the movie feels a little familiar when Georgia's troubles begin to snowball. The threat of her parents divorcing, a falling out with her best friend and the inevitable showdown with rival Lindsay (Kimberley Nixon, Easy Virtue) are handled in predictable fashion.
The picture on this DVD is pleasingly bright and colorful though the image contrast is a little shallow. In a few scenes the fine stripe patterns on clothing shimmer but it isn't any worse than I've seen on other standard def discs. On the disc we received for review there was a thin band along the top of the frame that was lighter than the rest of the picture. This might be a symptom of the preview disc that is corrected on the retail product or just less noticeable depending on the size of your monitor. The image sharpness is respectable. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is a nice surround mix. Clear dialogue comes mainly from the center channel while the music occupies the surround speakers to keep the film's energy light and bouncy.
Paramount has loaded this single disc release with more than an hour's worth of supplements. The longest piece, "Double Cool with Knobs On," is a making-of featurette running 27 minutes. Interviews, character intros and glimpses of crew activity make up this standard promo item.
There are a half-dozen short featurettes, each about three minutes, that will appeal to different audiences. The young actors are showcased in "First Kisses," where they discuss snogging on camera, and in the "Angus Video Diaries" that were shot by Georgia. The segments I especially enjoyed focused on the work of other production staff including the cinematographer and wardrobe department. "Stepping Inside" follows production designer Nick Ellis on a tour of the Nicolson house, which is convincingly real but is revealed to be entirely fabricated in the studio.
There are also short segments on the U.K. premiere of the film, eight deleted scenes, a bloopers reel and a photo gallery. Lastly, there is a music video by the Stiff Dylans performing their pop song from the film's finale. I didn't mind the song "Ultraviolet" in the context of the movie but it is overused in the supplemental segments. I lost count of how many of the featurettes used this generic pop tune but I'll be happy once it's out of my head.
Accompanying the movie is a commentary by Chadha and three of the Ace Gang cast members. The girls recall the positive experience of filming and the director points out some of the logistical problems of the production. Everyone has fond memories of working on the movie, which makes it an enjoyable listen on the whole. At times it's quite a lively discussion, with Chadha and Groome talking the most, so it can be difficult to keep track of who is speaking.
Considering the abundance of behind-the-scenes extras that has been included on this disc, the absence of marketing material is noticeable. Not even a trailer is provided. I'm curious if the original advertising campaign was botched. The movie must have been a serious underperformer for it not to be given a U.S. theatrical release.
The movie is a charming distraction even if the story settles for familiar twists and resolutions. There isn't a lot of viewing choices for girls in their early teens and this is a relatively harmless distraction. At least its purpose isn't to make girls crave designer handbags or tell them they must be runway models or pop music idols.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted Scenes
* Photo Gallery
* Music Video