June 14, 2009

Spring Breakdown

Reviewer: Amy Monaghan
Rating (out of 5): **

Originally slated for a 2008 release, “broad” “comedy” Spring Breakdown deservedly sat on the shelf, screened only once (Sundance 2009), and then went straight to DVD. Breakdown is a letdown because it’s a missed opportunity. The spring-break genre flick remains ripe for the type of surgical skewering this cast is capable of.

Christopher Guest regular/indie It girl Parker Posey, Amy Poehler, and cowriter (with director Ryan Shiraki) Rachel Dratch play three dowdy single gals who’ve been pals since college. Becky (Posey) is a meek cat lady, Judi (Dratch) is engaged to the terminally fey William (lisped by Saturday Night Live’s Seth Myers), and Gayle (Poehler) was just turned down by a blind client (real-life husband Will Arnett in a cameo) at her dog-training school.

These late-thirties losers (a redundant description, the movie suggests) are getting ready to leave for their idea of a fun girls’ getaway – a womyn’s music festival (nyuk nyuk) – when Becky’s ball-busting boss, Senator Kay Bee Hartmann, puts the kibosh on her plans. The pol (played by ace scene stealer Jane Lynch as a big-haired former Miss Texas) is a lock to replace the disgraced vice president. She just wants to make sure that her college-age daughter doesn’t get caught doing anything embarrassing before the appointment is made. So it’s off to South Padre for Becky, with Gayle and Judi in tow, secretly eager to experience the spring break that eluded them as nerdy undergrads.

Once there, Becky discovers that the senator’s daughter Ashley (Amber Tamblyn) is a next-gen nerd. She’s only in South Padre to prove to a boy that she’s as party-hearty as her nemesis, generic mean girl Mason. Former fattie Gayle falls in with Mason and her mostly blonde crew, dubbed the Sevens, giddy to be popular at long last. Judi wrongly presumes she’s hooked up with an oblivious hunk she woke next to after a night of hard boozing with Charlene. Ashley is photographed in an improbable girl-girl kiss with Mason, and a paper-thin scandal ensues, leading up to an all-girl talent show showdown judged by Christopher “Bobby Brady” Knight, Bruce Vilanch, and some singer named La La and featuring acts like an all-Asian team called the Hoochie Mins. Really.

I wish I could say hilarity ensues. There are moments, but they are few and far between, and most feature Missi Pyle, as good-time Charlene, a leathery, dipsomaniacal party girl who years ago embraced the South Padre lifestyle full time. Otherwise, there are keg stands, wet t-shirt contents, salsa wrestling, and foam parties.

Lessons are learned, too. Perhaps the most important one is that the presence of strong female leads and accomplished supporting actresses doesn’t mean a movie can’t be just as misogynistic, hackneyed, and lame as any second-rate bromance. It’s a Debbie Downer that Spring Breakdown isn’t a much better movie.

The special features are just as slight and unexceptional. Dratch and Shiraki’s unilluminating commentary track starts by saying they wanted to tell the female side of spring break without making a romantic comedy. Um, mission accomplished? For the next 84 minutes they crack each other up mocking how formulaic their own movie is. At least somebody’s laughing. The “additional scenes” clock in at a brisk three minutes and play like the sort of SNL sketches that get cut during dress rehearsal. The “gag reel” features two minutes of Posey, Pyle, and Lynch et al. flubbing unfunny lines. The only other “extra” offered are language options. It’s possible that watching Spring Breakdown dubbed into Quebeçois French might make it funnier, but unlikely.

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Posted by cphillips at June 14, 2009 7:55 PM
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