Senior Year has an outrageous premise that, surprisingly, feels minor in the hands of its filmmakers.
The movie’s lengthy set-up, taking place after the turn of the century in 2002, involves a high school wallflower (Angourie Rice, of the recent Spider-Man movies) pushing herself and achieving peak popularity just to have the exclusive status stripped away when a cheerleading stunt goes awry. The accident puts the student, Stephanie, in a 20-year coma. When she awakens (now played by Rebel Wilson of The Hustle and the Pitch Perfect franchise), she has to adjust to her new bearings. Stephanie may have aged but she’s more determined than ever to finish high school and reclaim her popularity.
Wilson is funny, but she’s not working with a great script or strong direction. Luckily, her comic personality is experienced enough to persevere through weak support. Likewise for the supporting cast, including SNL alum Chris Parnell who plays Stephanie’s patient father. Like Wilson, Parnell is naturally funny, but he one-ups his screen partner by receiving the best scene in Senior Year. The comedian delivers a heartfelt monologue to Stephanie about not giving up on people who won’t give up on her. The monologue is very cheesy, but Parnell’s composed reassurance sells it well and it’s a nice contrast against his brand of sarcasm.
However, aside from those performances, some decent laughs and a clever cameo that doesn’t call attention to herself, Senior Year is a mild comedy that barely satisfies with its thin plot (imagine a measlier version of 2018’s Life of the Party). Senior Year’s primary trick is its satire of contemporary values against Stephanie’s fish-out-of-water personality. The film wants to poke fun at overexaggerated “woke-ness” but also wants to encourage this good behaviour. The humour isn’t entirely toothless, but it can’t commit to one approach or the other, nor can it find an even balance.
Isn’t It Romantic, another satirical Rebel Wilson vehicle that involves her character waking up from a coma and becoming very aware of the exaggerated behaviour around her, is a much better example of this calibre of comedy. It’s possible for a movie to have its cake and eat it too, but Senior Year isn’t that example.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie