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Jawbreaker
IMDB Rating: 5.4/10 from R votes
Release: 19 February 1999 (USA) /

Jawbreaker

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Thriller
Director:
Stars: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: In what was meant as a harmless birthday prank, three of Reagan High School's most popular girls, Julie, Marcie, and Courtney pretend to kidnap their friend, the latter shoving a jawbreaker into the victim's mouth to keep her from screaming. Their plan goes awry when the girl accidentally swallows the jawbreaker, choking to death. The cool and calculating Courtney tries to cover the crime but is found out by school geek Fern Mayo. In return for her silence, Courtney transforms the gawky Fern into the stylishly beautiful Vylette, leaving the conscience-stricken Julie out in the cold, threatening to set her up for the girl's murder if she breaks her silence. Written by Jonathan Ruskin JonRuskin@aol.com

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Critic Reviews


Much like the candy that bears it's name, "Jawbreaker" is a sweet, infectious dark comedy that wants you to enjoy it for a good, long time. Unfortunately, also like the candy, the film is a little hard to swallow, and it doesn't last as long or come on as strong as it's name would lead you to believe. But even though you know that much candy is bad for you, you still want to have it.

On her 17th birthday, popular girl Liz (Charlotte Ayanna, here as Charlotte Roldan), a member of the "Flawless Four," is kidnapped by her best friends Courtney (Rose McGowan), Marcie (Julie Benz), and Julie (Rebecca Gayheart) as a prank, her screams muffled by a huge jawbreaker. The prank goes horribly wrong, however, when Liz chokes to death on the candy. Instead of going to the authorities, as Julie insists, Courtney devises a massive plan to cover up the death, a plan discovered by the unpopular and awkward Fern (Judy Greer). To win her silence, Courtney makes Fern in her own image, renaming her Vylette and allowing her to hang and commiserate with the most popular people in school. As Fern becomes intoxicated with her new-found power, Julie becomes more concerned with her friend's death, and Courtney spins a devious web of lies and trickery. Enter Detective Vera Cruz (Pam Grier), the only person who may be able to get to the bottom of the crime. But what does all this mean for the Prom?

Writer and director Darren Stein as obviously seen "Heathers" a good number of times. Like that classic film of teen angst, "Jawbreaker" is a dark comedy set in a high school, featuring an accidental murder of a popular student. While "Jawbreaker" is certainly more colorful than "Heathers", both in terms of set design and characters, it also comes off as a pale imitation. The students live their lives in near-vacuums, with parents showing up only occasionally, and then only as ineffective or ignorant. The impact of their actions on the community at large is only hinted at, and as a result, you never feel as if anything important in the reality of this film has ever happened.

That being said, the movie is still pretty sweet. Rose McGowan is cruel and calculating villain, terrifying in her powers of manipulation and contingency. Julie Benz is the perfect toadie, existing only to buoy Courtney's already swollen ego. Rebecca Gayheart's warm-natured Julie is a stark contrast to Courtney's "Satan-in-heels" persona, and Judy Greer is wonderful to watch as she goes from under-appreciated geek to power-mad diva. Pam Grier is, as always, a pleasure to watch, even if her role seems too small. The interactions between her and Rose McGowan are some of the highlights of the film. A good supporting cast also deserves mention, most notably Carol Kane as the slightly daffy school principal, Marilyn Manson as a seedy barfly, and Ethan Erickson as the dumb jock being relentlessly manipulated by Courtney's sex games.

While the script is full of caustic one-liners, it never succumbs to its own hipness. The characters are witty, but not nearly as unrealistically urbane as the characters in movies like "Scream." Some scenes and interactions come off as gratuitous, and to be sure there are a number of times when Stein really wants you to notice to how well he paid attention at film school. But there are a number of scenes that gain new meaning when analyzed in the larger scheme of the movie, and a repeat viewing may be in order to catch the full signifcance. You may sometimes get so distracted by the candy-colored schemes (McGowan's lips alone may send you into insulin shock) that you'll forget about the plot.

Some may see the movie as derivative, and there are certainly a large number of detractors. But taken on its own merits, "Jawbreaker" is a fun, giddily dark comedy that requires more than few licks to get to the bottom of. Just keep your consumption to a moderate amount, and you'll do fine. 7 out of 10.

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