I tend not to get too terribly excited anymore when I see a new Netflix original movie or series that’s in the young adult genre, despite the fact that I love YA stuff in general. Netflix’s material in that vein has just been decidedly unimpressive. Between the filth of their “13 Reasons Why,” and the lameness of their “#RealityHigh,” my expectations are pretty low.
But the trailer for their new film Candy Jar looked pretty interesting, so I decided to give it a shot anyway.
A Movie About the Nerdy Kids
I think I’m sick to death of seeing over-dramatic loners or outlandishly popular divas in young adult films and series. So one of the things I liked most about Candy Jar was that it’s actually about two nerds.
These two particular nerds, Lona and Bennett, hate each other. They’ve been arch-rivals in academia since young childhood and have spent their entire high school careers trying to outdo one another in debate competition.
Both these characters are refreshingly accessible in their lowly social statuses, even as they geek out over a bunch of stuff from the world of competitive debate that I (and probably most people) know little to nothing about. Both of them are a little insecure, and very fearful of the future.
And of course, though they’ve both always hated one another, they gradually fall in love, in a surprisingly clean and cute little love story.
The Good and the Bad
The writing is not bad, though the plot does feel a little sporadic at times.
The characters are almost all pretty endearing, perhaps most notably the school guidance counselor played by Helen Hunt, whom both of the main characters vent to pretty frequently.
Another thing that makes this movie rather novel is its setting in the world of debate. There are obviously a few other films out there set in this world (The Great Debaters, and a hard R young adult movie called Rocket Science both come to mind…), but I definitely wouldn’t call it cliched by any means. And the film does a pretty decent job of informing us of the rules of their world, without getting boring about it.
Not a lot of faults here, except for one cheesily cringe-worthy scene where a debater freezes and goes into an extremely awkward monologue about the state of things in life and the future and cool stuff like that. An unfortunate little scene, because the rest of it was really pretty good.
This is wildly more clean than most of the outwardly similar content I’ve seen lately.
There was some foul language (TV-14 worthy), and I believe only one sexual joke. The sexual joke was a bit more distasteful because it was from a mother to a teenaged daughter, but it wasn’t graphic.
No sex scenes, and only kissing seen or suggested between the main love interests.
Not a Bad Choice
While not every second of it was absolutely riveting, it held my interest and didn’t disappoint in the moral aspects. It was fairly cute and fun, and if not life-changingly meaningful, it at least took a stab at going into real issues in teenagers’ lives.
I went away from this movie feeling like maybe there’s hope for young adult movies these days after all.