Rating -

Comedy (US); 1999; Rated R; 87 Minutes

Rose McGowan: Courtney Shayne
Rebecca Gayheart: Julie Freeman
Julie Benz: Marcie Fox
Judy Greer: Fern Mayo (Vylette)
Chad Christ: Zack Tartak

Produced by Thom Colwell, Stacy Kramer and Lisa Tornel; Directed and screenwritten by Darren Stein

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Written by DAVID KEYES

"Jawbreaker" is the kind of film that makes you want to kidnap the director and lock him in a trunk, bound and gagged, so he doesn't make any more movies like this. Actually, you could do numerous things to a director like this, but I choose to bring up the kidnapping scenario because its an element contained in his movie, supposedly a 'comedy.' Three girls decide to play a practical joke on a friend for her birthday, tying her up and putting a jawbreaker in her mouth, with duct tape over it. When they open up the trunk to take her out, they discover that their prank has gone beyond extremes. The girl is dead, with that large jawbreaker jammed in her throat.

That type of 'comedy' gives me the creeps. Its what you call 'black,' or 'dark' humor, in which the filmmakers portray their sense of drollness through a series of elements that are either earnest or somber. For example, last year in "Very Bad Things," the characters covered up a series of murders by cutting up bodies and then burying them into the desert. Those things aren't funny, and though "Very Bad Things" is ten times worse than "Jawbreaker," both films have a similar setup that is undeserving of human viewers.

The film stars Rose McGowan, as a snobbish popular high school girl whose backbone is just about as strong as tinsel. When she and two of her friends kidnap the innocent birthday girl and accidentally kill her, they (you guessed it) try to cover up the murder with some sick plan. If they can make the whole thing look like a rape death, then that would put an end to the speculation of foul play.

Alas, the girls are discovered in their attempt to cover up their crime by a nerd named Fern, played somewhat effectively by Judy Greer. To buy her silence, though, sneaky Courtney offers to turn her into a 'silk purse,' so to speak. Hours of cosmetics and costumes later, Fern becomes Vylette, the newest sensation at school.

But the movies approach really has nothing to do with how these girls operate. We never get to know why they're shallow, or why they're so dang conceited. Instead, the movie takes a "Very Bad Things" approach with the opportunity to cover up the horrendous crimes these girls have committed. In between, on the sidelines, are jokes that are either gross or just lame-brained. One of the sickest takes place in the school cafeteria, while one of the most dimwitted occurs when a person actually gets high off of her own corsage. Geez, we knew that black comedies could get away with lots of things, but is that something worth getting away with?

The movie's plot and characters are mean-spirited and uninspired, which is a shame, because the movie gets some fairly good recognition for its performance by Rose McGowan. The last time I saw her, she was a strawberry blonde in "Scream." Here, she has Raven-colored hair, pale skin and a physique that she is obviously proud of. Late last year, arriving with her boyfriend Marilyn Manson (who has a cameo is "Jawbreaker") at the MTV Video Music Awards, her almost nonexistent outfit got quite a bit of attention as she strove down that red carpet. She got the attention here, as she does in this movie, some of it more deserving than other parts.

But I do not know what influenced any person to make this cruel movie, nor do I care, for the sake of my own sanity. There are times when, yes, a good black comedy comes along (last year, two of the best were "Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas" and "Your Friends & Neighbors"), but seldom do they achieve a recognizable status. Depending on the humor's purpose and tone, filmmakers can work wonders with the audience. Oh, but for "Jawbreaker," the humor's only real purpose is to make people feel like dirt. Choking on a jawbreaker might have been less painful.

Then again, the filmmakers have probably already done that.

1999, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org. Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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