Some consider senior year of high school to be the penultimate stage to a new chapter in life while others see it as just another day checked off the calendar. Netflix’s take on “Senior Year” is obviously the latter: hastily wired together by two exceptional concepts mired by a so-so execution but little charm to compensate for it.
Despite the set-up it calls for, Alex Hardcastle’s direction plays every single beat for this story as painfully simplistic as possible despite the writing taking little time to actively dump us into the thick of it. Yes, there’s a light satirical core to all of the tired tropes that are caricatured for comedic effect but one, they don’t really work half the time and two, all of that doesn’t amount to much because you’re just watching these cliches play out with hardly any deviations to the formula. They could’ve went completely cheesy with these high school tropes like the High School Musical films or, at the very least, be upfront about how similar it is to Never Been Kissed or 13 Going On 30 because it’s clear where the inspirations were coming from.
Some of the scenes are completely random without much build-up, most of the jokes are half-baked and never really land, none of the characters are particularly likeable or interesting in the grand scheme of things, its slightly ridiculous, there’s too many unresolved characters and sub-plots, it often tries way hard to be funny, it all wraps up with an ending that comes almost entirely out of left field and is relatively unearned and yes, while its exaggeration and mockery of many of the generational tropes and high school stereotypes it wants to praise did get some laughs out of me, it comes off more tacky than clever when you really think about it. From the neurotically PC principal, the prom waltz, a strange yodel version of Celine Dion, the cheerleading for 2022 bit and Rebel Wilson parading around as a hopelessly dated zombie of Regina George, I saw the clever satire in only very few of these.
Said lack of effort was clearly present behind the camera as well with basic visuals, awkward editing and the most pedestrian of cinematography I’ve seen this year so far. Nothing outstanding but nothing to really help it stand out either.
Positives wise, I’m actually surprised how invested I was in the movie at the first half an hour and I think most of that comes down to how well-paced this was. For an almost two hour movie, it does a good job taking its time and setting the stage until it completely shits the bed by the end. Decent presentation, costumes weren’t hard to look at, the fact I actually laughed at a couple instances surprised me and Rebel Wilson is clearly having a ball with the material despite her recycling her usual schtick. Not to mention, the soundtrack is pure early-millennium teen comedy throwback galore.
But yeah, this was still rather formulaic and the film hardly tries to attempt otherwise once the coma plotline comes in. Bit of a shame, cause there aren’t many films being made nowadays about a mid-life crisis from a woman’s point of view and given how the concept was sort of taking shape, I really wanted to see this film take advantage of those tropes. Alas, I have to remember to judge a film based on what it is more than what I want it to be and this is just…..ok.