Case Number 21022: Small Claims Court


Severin Films // 2011 // 85 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron (Retired) // March 31st, 2011

The Charge

Spring Break Just Broke

The Case

According to Devolved, the new satiric teen sex comedy from genre masters Severin Films, "life is exactly like high school." Of course, few are taking into consideration the fact that, once you hit 30, the realities of cliques and text-tied BFF companions melt away under a sea of extreme adult strains -- mortgages, kids, infidelity, and infirmity. Still, it's a nice enough thought -- especially for those who were BMOCs and BGOCs. The rest of the scholastic subcategories -- nerds, stoners, dweebs, geeks, etc. -- may not stand a chance, but will more than likely be a billion times more successful than the Homecoming Court. Whatever the particular pecking order, this unusual effort -- part American Pie, part Lord of the Flies -- wants to show how silly the whole "jocks vs. nots" dynamic really is, and for the most part, it gets its point across swimmingly. The film does occasionally go overboard into the obvious, but overall, the wit and winning performances carry us past the heavy hand employed behind the scenes.

During a "whale watching" excursion on spring break, a group of high school teens are shipwrecked on a deserted island off the coast of California. They include "fifth year senior" and star quarterback "The Rog" (Robert Adamson, Lincoln Heights), class nerd Flynn (Gary Entin, The Seeker: The Dark is Rising), and, torn between two scholastic social classes, cheerleader Peggy (Lindsay Shaw, Pretty Little Liars), among several others. Instantly dividing up into the partiers and the planners, the groups struggle for control of the situation. Even the arrival of an adult in the guise of Special Teams Coach Papillion (Chris Kattan, Corky Romano) can't stop the squabbling. Eventually, the popular posse wins out, placing the rest of the group under their beer soaked (and coca plant chewing) thumb. It will take a lot of intellectualized plotting to save the day, and Flynn and his "friends" are the perfect foils for their sex, drugs, and droning disco/rock/electronica loving pals.

Devolved is a nice little experiment that overstays its welcome by the wee-est of bits. It's consistently funny, insightful in the ways of the adolescent, and offers acting with verve and limited amateur antics. Of course, no film forged within the bowels of the indie scene can be completely free of senseless snark and post-planned irony, and writer/director John Cregan is guilty in going for the throat when something a little more subtle would work. Still, the movie makes a strong case for subverting the standard pre-college carnal craziness as nothing more than a meandering waste of time, and the stereotypes present among the students (Goth gal, closeted gay, sensitive theater dude, well-stocked drug connection) find ways to outlive their foundation of clichés. In essence, the performances wins us over, Entin and Shaw delivering multi-dimensions where only one or two might typically exist. Adamson, on the other hand, is one of the wimpiest star QBs of any high school in the history of cinema. He also has a bad habit of smirking through every line as if it has a secret meaning that only he knows about.

The result is a film far funnier than you imagine, but less biting than it could have been. The violence is always suggesting, arguing that Cregan felt uncomfortable pushing that necessary Battle Royale element to the fore. Similarly, the structure (including a cynical voiceover narration) means that the ending is telegraphed well in advance. Yet these are minor issues for a movie that strives to be different and deconstructionist and wins on both accounts. As for the Blu-Ray release, Severin does a decent job. The 1.78:1 image is clean and crisp, with limited visual issues highlighting the film's better-than-low-budget approach. Similarly, the lackluster Dolby Digital Stereo mix makes mediocre use of the HD format, but still provides a crystal clear, easy to understand aural experience. There is also a wealth of bonus features here, all aimed at expanding our appreciation of the film. The two commentary tracks contain many interesting anecdotes, while the making-of gives away a few too many production secrets. The rest of the material -- deleted scenes, auditions, short films -- are like icing on a cake that few remembering requesting. It's great to have all this added content, even if very little of it goes toward expanding our insight into the film itself.

Though there is minimal nudity (a couple of flashed breasts, that's all) and a decided lack of homerun hassle and hate, Devolved is still a nutty novelty. Those looking for something scandalous and silly need apply elsewhere. This is the antithesis of the standard teen comedy -- for good, and for bad.

The Verdict

Not Guilty. Devolved is a sly, satiric teen sex romp...without a lot of the latter.

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Scales of Justice
Judgment: 85

Perp Profile
Studio: Severin Films
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

* English

Running Time: 85 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Commentaries
* Deleted Scenes
* Featurette
* Audition Footage
* Short Films
* Music Videos
* Trailer

* IMDb