MTV // 2007 // 86 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Rafael Gamboa (Retired) // July 10th, 2007
"There's nothing sweet about it!"
Of all the subversive documentaries I have seen and books I have read decrying the alleged crimes of my country, none have made me more disgusted to be American than this movie. Super Sweet 16: The Movie is a quintessential MTV production, proudly displaying the characteristic shameless decadence, brash extravagant superficiality, humiliating brainlessness, and utter lack of talent that has defined every piece of trash this abominable television station has produced. What's worse, though, is that this film has the gall to pretend like it's trying to send a message, to pretend like it's some sort of cautionary tale, and does so in the most cosmetic and insulting manner possible. Not only is it a self-satisfying display of the most despicable kind of Americana, it somehow manages to reduce every ethnicity and social group it touches into unbelievably degrading stereotypes while casually and insolently draping itself in dime store morality.
This movie is based off of MTV's similarly titled reality show about spoiled, pouty, witless rich kids manipulating their spineless parents into spending about as much as America's military defense budget to gift them a ludicrously ostentatious sixteenth birthday party. Except, unlike the show, this movie is 100% narrative fiction.
The story, such as there is, centers around two BFFs: vegan do-gooder Sarah (Amanda "A.J." Michalka, Cow Belles) and fashion designer wannabe Jacquie (Regine Nehy, Pride). Their incredible bond of selfless friendship inspires them to share a SS16 party. But then Taylor Tiara (Alyson "Aly" Michalka, Cow Belles), the Goddess of Superficiality, uses her social know-how to turn these two bosom buddies into bitter rivals with surprisingly little effort. To quote the keep case: "What follows is a wild rivalry for the biggest, bossiest and most extravagant Super Sweet 16 ever."
Let's start with the easy stuff. Since it is an empty-vee production, we can take the following for granted: grotesquely cheesy editing, non-stop awful music, That's So Raven-caliber acting, abysmal dialogue, and a nigh world-swallowing vacuum where one would normally expect to find a story. And, of course, this movie glorifies the unbelievably wasteful, selfish, and pompous life of the rich and irresponsible. I doubt anyone's surprised, so I'm not going to spend much time deriding that which we already know comes standard.
Here's the part I wasn't expecting. I'm not exactly sure why MTV bothered, but they were compelled to throw a veneer of patronizing morality onto their sewage-sculpture. And it's a bit confusing as to whether this was an honest but inept attempt at being a good family film with a message, or if it was MTV snidely giving its critics the middle finger. In either case, it was awful.
Examples (many spoilers ahead!): Sarah is a vegan environmentalist who wears a shirt that says "vegan" on it. Her idea for a super sweet sixteen b-day bash is to make it a fundraiser for Hollywood Heart, which is a non-profit charity for at-risk youth. But that takes an instant back seat to her more important ambition of having a better party than her rival. Her idiot father ends up hemorrhaging money to suit her greed, trying to get huge venues and crappy MTV-lapdog bands to play. However, once she learns the error of her ways, she cancels it all and makes amends with her friend Jacquie -- by sharing Ben and Jerry's ice cream with her. Uh...so is MTV trying to tell me that in order to stop being a bad kid one has to stop being vegan, or is this proof that MTV couldn't bother itself to read the dictionary definition of vegan? Sarah's concern for conserving energy, recycling, and all that stuff never seems to apply to her own habits, because even after dropping her own party, she and Jacquie put together an even more self-absorbed shindig at an obviously astronomical cost. However, this time they brought a small handful of kids from Hollywood Heart, telling them the world's biggest lie: "It's your night!" These children promptly disappear once they make their guilt-relieving photo-op, leaving you to wonder how this outrageous party is going to garner charity donations that surpass the amount of money dumped into the party itself. If Sarah really cared about helping others, why the hell didn't she just give all that money to Hollywood Heart instead of using it to fund her own vanity project and giving the table scraps to the charity? Is this movie seriously trying to pass off this behavior as the behavior of a good person, or is it simply insulting the type of people who criticize the values MTV is selling to the world's youth by making them look like hypocrites?
There is not a single character in this movie that isn't in some way a spoiled sod. Even the cute boy love interest Shannon (Brendan Miller, Accepted), a type who is always made to look perfect in these kinds of movies, is obviously a big spender. However, he and everyone else in the movie like to pretend that they're not self-centered. They lie to themselves and they lie to everyone else to cover up their egocentrism; Sarah and Jacquie pretending they are having their party to benefit charities rather than their own desires to be treated like princesses, Shannon pretending that he's interested in the well-being of others rather than his own success and cool factor, Jacquie's father pretending he is not a fool while docilely pandering to his daughter's every childish whim -- the list goes on, but the only person not included on that list is, ironically, the movie's villain, Taylor. She's the only one who doesn't hide the fact that she's a shallow, despicable person. She readily admits it, makes no effort to lie about what she is (although that's not to say she doesn't lie, because she does -- a lot). And because of that, she's the one that's punished! Is this movie telling us it's okay to be a selfish ass, so long as you pretend you're not? What kind of moral is that?
Even more unsettling, Jaquie's mother is running for the Senate. And here she is, pulling huge favors along with her husband to please a daughter that doesn't deserve their love. Am I supposed to feel happy that she's going to get elected when she clearly cares more about making her daughter feel like the world revolves around her instead of helping the people she's been entrusted to serve?
And of course there's the usual MTV approach of making high school look like something it never has been, a place full of ethnically diverse but socially monotonous drones that are solely interested in getting invited to a birthday party for people they could care less about just so they can up their social status points. Movies like this are geared to 12-year-old girls who don't know any better, and they end up going to high school and being the cause of this type of popularity-driven drama that most high school kids really wish they didn't have to deal with. Yes, there is one girl who is supposed to be the repressed smart one, but she like everyone else looks like some sort of celebrity or fashion model, and once she finally rebels and basically says "smart can be sexy too," we never hear from her again. Once her character has paid lip service to the wholesome message this movie pretends to offer, the film doesn't bother backing it up at all because it simply doesn't care. All it cares about is the frickin' party. Likewise, there is a token fat girl whose uplifting social rebellion against Taylor basically says "just because I'm fat doesn't mean I can't aspire to being as shallow as you."
The DVD comes with deleted scenes, and previews for other MTV schlock like The Hills and Laguna Beach, and Virtual MTV, an online game where you get to walk around and live the MTV life, or something. But the worst bit is the "Best of My Super Sweet 16," which is basically a clip show of all the "highlights" of the past season of the show. Now, I have no idea how much of it is real and how much of it is scripted, but there's no denying that there is a staggering amount of money being sucked down the drain in this show, and all for a bunch of people that I have no problem declaring as useless to society. How is this show popular? How is any of this stuff popular?
There is something else worth mentioning. The stars of this movie, the Michalka sisters, are a teen pop musical fad. They also happen to be very Christian, as in the kind that take most of the Bible literally. It boggles my mind how two girls who claim to be that religious can consistently take part in the kind of projects whose underlying messages stand against the core beliefs of every Christian denomination I can think of: selflessness, generosity, love of others, humility, etc. And these girls are supposed to be role models!?
What the @#!!$%! is wrong with this movie? Does MTV really reflect American culture, or is it actually creating American culture by convincing its young devotees that life should be like this? I don't know which is more terrifying, or depressing. All I know is that this movie and everything it represents disgusts me. The fact that it doesn't disgust everyone else scares me.
This movie is guilty of far worse than merely being a bad movie. Please don't buy this. Please.
Review content copyright © 2007 Rafael Gamboa; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* The Best of My Super Sweet 16
* Deleted Scenes