There was a spate of teen movies made from around Clueless in 1994 to around fifteen years later that did not receive a lot of critical attention, never mind love, but as they were aimed at the young have gone on to be treasured by Millennials as something they grew up with, an important link to their pasts which mean as much to them as whatever the heyday of the teen movie was for the older generations, be they the Beach Party series of the sixties or the eighties post-Animal House "outrageous" style of comedy and drama designed to make the audience see something daring.
But while the eighties had plenty of analysis, the same kind of efforts from around the turn of the millennium were neglected until pieces like this montage, essay documentary from writer Charlie Lyne, who made this kind of examination and collection his stock in trade - the BBC iPlayer epic Fear Itself, about horror movies, was perhaps his most visible example of this style. While these were rather sneered at as lazy, there were instances of them, such as Rodney Ascher's Room 237 or Mark Kermode's Secrets of Cinema television series, which caught the welcoming eye of film buffs.
Beyond Clueless was not so prominent, probably because it did not have a killer hook unless you grew up with these movies. And even if you did, finding a lot of people who had fond memories of, say, Disturbing Behavior was going to be a big ask, no matter how far Lyne went to clip it as proof of his theories. Ironically, the later, similar clip doc Romantic Comedy was made by the band who did the music soundtrack for this, Summer Camp, and as that had a bigger impact as far as its subject matter reached, it would probably supplant the earlier picture in many minds of those who caught it.
However, that was not to say Lyne's work here was worthless, as he produced some pretty decent montages from about two hundred movies, many of which went by too fast to identify even films you would have recognised - you read the credits at the end and think, hey, I've seen that! But you did not pick up on it. That said, some are given more space than others, revealing this genre to be obsessed with conformity to the point that it will celebrate non-conformity, but only to the very limits of adolescence, as after that you really have to grow up. And conform. Or else you're just a sad bastard (the ending of 13 Going on 30 comes across as more depressing than a triumph in this context).
Elsewhere, of course Mean Girls was under the microscope, being the epitome of the smart, funny post-Clueless teen flick, yet there was also surprising weight given to such items as horrors Idle Hands or The Faculty, both fun films that could do with more respect (or appreciation, anyway), and comedy Eurotrip which is revealed as a succession of gay panic situations for a protagonist in denial about his never-admitted gay sexuality. A few more instances of that strain of radical theory would have benefitted the documentary, but too often Lyne shied away from going for the jugular, perhaps because he held these in too much affection, so what you had was a lightly probing set of chapters that might make you want to check out some of these, some are very enjoyable on whatever terms you want to apply, but maybe you had to be there to get truly enthusiastic. Not a bad conversation starter, nevertheless. Former teen star Fairuza Balk provided the deadpan narration.
[Click here to watch on MUBI.]