Judge Tamika Adair thinks this film makes Spring Break look like all work and no play.
Our review of Spring Breakdown (Blu-Ray), published June 3rd, 2009, is also available.
Payback's a Beach!
I always knew Spring Break was like a bad comedy filled with lame people that you don't care about and probably will never remember again, reenacting the tired clichés that MTV Spring Break made famous, and engaging in pointless acts of stupidity involving sex, nudity, alcohol and/or drugs. Spring Breakdown is evidence of that idea.
Amy Poehler, Parker Posey and Rachel Dratch star as a trio of nerdy misfits that travel down to South Padre Island to reclaim the "fun" that they never had in college. While Becky St. Germaine (Parker Posey, Best in Show) is on a mission to prevent her boss's daughter from publicly disgracing her mother's bid as the next vice-president, her friends Gayle O'Brien (Amy Poehler, Baby Mama) and Judy Joskow (Rachel Dratch, 30 Rock) chase after their own lost dreams of acceptance in a sea of beer, hook-ups, and raucous games that almost always end in public nudity.
In high school, this threesome may have been social rejects, but they seem to have always found comfort in each other. Fifteen years later, I'm kind of wondering how a meek, green-loving pacifist gets to be an Office Manager to a gun-toting, anti-feminist like Senator "Kay-Bee" Hartmann (Jane Lynch, The L Word). Becky has political aspirations, but the Senator constantly bullies her into thinking that she doesn't have what it takes to make it. On the personal front, her love life is non-existent since her cat serves as her surrogate boyfriend.
Gayle's problem is that despite losing all the weight she had in high school and her success as a dog trainer, she can't even attract a blind man for a date. Judy's situation, on the other hand, is much sadder than Gayle's. Judy is oblivious to the fact that her fiancé is flaming homosexual (Seth Myers gives one of the most unspeakably horrible performances I've ever seen in a bad movie).
After Becky shares her plans with her friends, they decide to join her in order to discover what they were missing in college. My favorite part in the whole movie occurs during the initial moments of the trio's arrival, when they encounter a rogue female flasher. Gayle slaps the mess out of her and screams, "Get it together!" That's excellent advice for writer/director Ryan Shiraki. Unfortunately, priceless moments like that are few and far between.
Although it's loaded with comedic talent, the biggest problems with Spring Breakdown lie with the weak screenplay, sloppy character development, and bad comedic timing. No one ever knows why Poehler's character is so desperate to blindly follow the Sevens, the popular crowd. Is it a lack of self-esteem? Does she want to be a sexy skank? Does she have something to prove? Even after the Sevens give her a "makeover," Gayle goes overboard by reinventing herself as some wacky hybrid mix of a hood rat/valley girl.
If I remember correctly from Party Girl, Posey is not a bad comedic actress. But it's evident that not even the most talented comedic actors can turn drivel into art. Most of the jokes have no set up or fail to build up to the punchline. Shiraki is just haphazardly throwing out gags and jokes hoping for them to stick. Posey is underutilized and is stuck playing the nerdy wallflower that can't (or refuses to) have any fun because she's busy chasing after Ashley, the senator's daughter (Amber Tamblyn, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) for half the film. Poehler and Dratch are only good for a few one-liners and some physical comedy gags before the humor runs dry.
It's kind of sad that all the other alumni of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants films are being blessed with great launch pads into the business. America Ferrara and Blake Lively struck it big with their respective shows, Ugly Betty and Gossip Girl. Alexis Bledel's new film, a comedy called Post Grad which premieres at the end of the summer, caught my eye on a personal level due to its premise. However, poor Tamblyn is stuck with Spring Breakdown. Her character may be the prime reason why Becky and her friends are at South Padre Island, but Shiraki constantly forgets about her to capture the trio's exploits. She's plays a genuine Plain Jane, but I would rather see what else she has to offer.
Although, the material doesn't give them much latitude, the actors still brings a little something to the film that at least makes it watchable. For example, Missi Pyle steals the show in many scenes as the aging habitual spring-breaker. Her mannerisms, facial expressions, snappy one-liners and the situations she finds herself in are one of the rare redeeming components in the film. She is also the only who appears to be having fun. Everyone else seems like they are trying too hard to have fun and are failing badly. Or they have something to prove just by being there.
The special features are limited to few deleted scenes, a gag reel, and a pointless audio commentary by Ryan Shiraki and Rachel Dratch that gave me no insight into why and how this got made.
I wasn't blown away by the video and audio quality. It has fairly decent sound mix that integrates seamlessly and video transfer is pretty smooth with few to no defects. My only problem is the harsh, unflattering lighting. Often, Poehler seems to have very bad and discolored skin. The commentary mentioned that they created some of her acne, but they didn't mention anything about her coloring. Dratch's skin looks red and splotchy. And I hate the halos of light that rest on the characters' heads in some scenes; they make it seem like the director of photography didn't know what a flag is used for.
Unsurprisingly, Spring Breakdown doesn't offer much. Under a different writer and director who truly understood how to make a comedy, it could have been something more. Instead, its title correctly implies this film is a breakdown of all sorts.
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