On Netflix

#RealityHigh: What Have Young Adult Movies Come To?

I love a good young adult, coming of age story. And… I hate a bad one.

There’s been a weird phenomenon lately, where most of the ones I’ve see on-screen have been falling into the latter category. After watching (part of) the Netflix “13 Reasons Why” series, I was beginning to doubt I’d ever find anything similar to my good old young adult favorites – movies like Mean Girls, or Juno, or Bring It On (only the first one!) that are about growing up but are well-done enough that adults like them too (or maybe even more).

So when Netflix’s original movie #RealityHigh showed up on their new release list, I was hopeful but had my doubts.

Well-Founded Doubts

This movie is silly. And not in a good way.

The premise is tried-and-true coming-of-age fodder: A geeky high school girl’s crush finally notices her, but then his ex wants to take her down. The spin and gimmick is that the mean ex is a social media star with several million followers and her own sort-of show online.

I think this premise is good enough. It sounds like what it is, pretty similar to what we’ve seen plenty of times before, but with a little unique spin that makes it more relevant to modern teens.

But the execution is where it gets silly. It felt almost like I was watching a Disney channel original movie or series. And not one of the somewhat higher quality older ones. It wasn’t quite as cheesy as the brightly-colored, over-acted things like The Suite Life show and series, but it did have moments that leaned that way. Along with some poorly written, overly-expository dialogue, and some plot problems that could have been tweaked even just a little to make it a much tighter and more compelling story.

All of that wouldn’t be that big of deal if it were clearly a movie for children and young teens, like the actual Disney channel fair. But the thing is, this was very much not for young ones.

The Moral Issues

It’s rated TV-14, and I would say it’s on the “hard” end of that spectrum, probably even more so than those PG-13 coming-of-age classics that aim more adult-y.

Here’s the rundown for this movie:

Language, including plenty of uses of the s word and one very clear f word (by the foolish school principal character, of all things…).

A graphiti drawing of male genitalia and fluid.

Brief sexual dialogue.

A pretty lewd dance routine by very scantily clad cheerleaders (which had like nothing to do with the plot).

An adult character who is talking about her online dating life and seems to be looking at a sext from someone.

A somewhat benign view of teenagers partying and getting super drunk.

Oh, and of course I can’t forget the gay guy sidekick to the mean girl, who is a pretty low-key character, until the end when one of the buff guy posse members turns out to be gay and the two of them make out. This also had no bearing whatsoever on the plot.

Over All

It had a few entertaining moments, but I was mostly caught up in how poorly the story was plotted, a fault that made it feel all the more juvenile in nature – with content issues that made it very much something young teens shouldn’t really be watching.

So on the whole, I would classify this movie as a pretty big disappointment.