[box cover]

How to Deal: Platinum Series

Maybe teen movies should stick to Shakespeare. After all, once John Hughes' star began to fade after his popular, somewhat groundbreaking class-warfare teen dramedies of the 1980s, the best spate of films arrived in the following decade, most adapted from Shakespearean texts (10 Things I Hate About You) or classic literature (She's All That). It's hard to tell if How to Deal (2003) marks yet another shift in teen-cinema trends, but it's firmly rooted in a popular genre: Young Adult Literature. Teen pop star Mandy Moore stars as Halley Martin, a bright high school student with a severe case of cynicism — after all, her mom Lydia (Allison Janney) is a bitter divorcée, her radio-DJ dad Len (Peter Gallagher, uncredited) is marrying a brainless peroxide blonde, her sister Ashley (Mary Catherine Garrison) can't stop arguing with her fiancé, and her best friend Scarlett (Alexandra Holden) has gone all silly-eyes over a new boyfriend. As far as Halley is concerned, the only way to be sure that you don't wind up in rotten relationships is to not have them. The one guy she feels she can have something do with is Macon (Trent Ford), a good looking, lanky teen with a bit of a rebellious streak. But in addition to having rotten attendance at school, Macon is also smart, and sweet, and charming, which means Halley finds him hard to resist once he puts the moves on her. One look at the boxcover, with apple-cheeked Moore and floppy-haired Ford on the cover, and it would be easy to suspect How to Deal will have the same sort of comic offerings to be found in 10 Things or Drive Me Crazy — which means folks of all ages are bound to try a rental. Face it, you don't have to be sixteen to enjoy a high-school movie, because those that are slick, fun, and well-scripted allow just about anyone to go back to high school for a couple of hours and soak in the sort of escapist romance that never happened… or at least never was going to happen to a maladjusted ass-clown like you. Where How to Deal diverges is that it isn't all that escapist — while it has plenty of humorous moments, it still stays true to its teen audience, thanks to the use of two young-adult books by Sarah Dessen as the source-material. Moore and Ford get to look cute, and both have plenty of celluloid charm, but before everything gets worked out at the prom (or in this case, the sister's wedding, in Sixteen Candles fashion), there is a death, an unexpected pregnancy, a pretty bad car crash, and various other little melodramas our characters must confront (the plotting is awkward, by the way, with too many malevolent deus ex machina to give the story a smooth flow). Don't be surprised if you know a teenage girl who spins this DVD as often as she's found reading a slender paperback melodrama. For everyone else, perhaps growing up was a little bit too much like this — nostalgia, after all, is a very selective form of memory. New Line's DVD release of How to Deal, part of their "Platinum Series," features a solid anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Supplements include three featurettes on Mandy Moore, Trent Ford, and director Clare Kilner, a commentary with Moore, Kilner, and co-star Alexandra Holden, a featurette on Young Adult Literature fiction (28 min.), four deleted scenes, music videos by Liz Phair and Skye Sweetnam, the theatrical trailer, additional trailers for New Line titles, and DVD-ROM content. Keep-case.
—JJB



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