An Afterschool Special without the courage of its convictions, this satirical fable affects the "isn't it ironic" tone so beloved of smug pseudo-hipsters who think rolling their eyes at the tackiness of hula-themed sorority rush barbecues constitutes trenchant social commentary. Southern California State University senior Carolyn McDuffy (Christina Ricci) is the star of Alpha Omega Pi, a pint-sized bundle of enthusiasm with perfect taste in everything, from hair (her blond flip is to die for) to boyfriends. Ambitious AOP president Julie Thurber (Marisa Coughlan) has decided this is the year they're going to win the coveted Sorority of the Year award away from the hated Tri Omega house of supermodels-in-training, and to that end starts actively recruiting "diversity sisters" (Asian is good, but African-American or Filipino is better) and picks a killer charity for the sisters to support: The Challenged Games. Each AOP sister must mentor a physically or mentally disabled athlete, and Carolyn's charge is Pumpkin Romanoff (Hank Harris), a listless aspiring shot-putter who speaks haltingly, is largely confined to a wheelchair and can barely hold his discus, let alone throw it. Carolyn is horrified by getting up close and personal with disabled people, though unlike her roommate (Dominique Swaim) she manages not to flee in horror. Pumpkin, by contrast, adores Carolyn on sight and embarks on a vigorous exercise program that astonishes and worries his overprotective mother, Judy (Brenda Blethyn), who's devoted her life to her dependent man-child and is more than a little uncomfortable with his sudden determination to grow up. As Carolyn spends more time with Pumpkin, she finds herself falling in love with his "pure soul," a development which makes her a pariah after all, it's one thing to be nice to those poor people, and quite another to fall in love with one. Little Miss Perfect's first taste of life's cruelty is an eye-opener, and forces her to reassess the superficial values she holds dear. By trying to be two things at once a sincere love story and a smirking satire of sorority house snobbery this self-conscious film winds up not working on either count. The satire is broad and easy, while the romance is thoroughly unconvincing. Carolyn yammers about Pumpkin's soulfulness (which verges on endorsing yet another stereotype about the mentally challenged) and the way he sees her for what she really is, but the filmmakers are too busy art directing to bother showing us what makes him special.
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- Released: 2001
- Rating: R
- Review: An Afterschool Special without the courage of its convictions, this satirical fable affects the "isn't it ironic" tone so beloved of smug pseudo-hipsters who think rolling their eyes at the tackiness of hula-themed sorority rush barbecues constitutes trenc… (more)