REVIEW: ‘Senior Year’ Isn’t Top Of The Class When It Comes To Teenage Comedy

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Senior Year - But Why Tho

Senior Year is a Netflix Original Film directed by Alex Hardcastle and produced in association with Paramount Players. After moving to the United States from Australia, Stephanie Conway (Angourie Rice) is determined to be the most popular person in high school—to the point where she sees winning prom queen as a literal crowning achievement. However, during a pep rally in her senior year, a cheer routine goes horribly wrong and lands Stephanie in a coma for 20 years. Now an adult (Rebel Wilson) who still has the mentality of a teenager, Stephanie goes back to school to try and pick up where her life left off while reconnecting with her friends Martha (Mary Holland) and Seth (Sam Richardson).

Ever since the To All The Boys trilogy was a rousing success for Netflix, the streamer has been trying to chase said success with a string of high school-themed comedies. Many of these efforts, from He’s All That to The Kissing Booth trilogy, haven’t really made an impact and Senior Year looks like it’ll continue that streak. Its premise has been covered before: Tom Hanks more or less laid the foundation with Big, while Jennifer Garner perfected it in 13 Going on 30. Rather than attempting to find a new angle on the material, Hardcastle and screenwriters Andrew Knauer, Arthur Pielli & Brandon Scott Jones seem more interested in trying to poke fun at Gen Z and social media. As a result, jokes including Stephanie learning why she can’t say the word “gay” or about the power of social media tend to fall flat.

There’s also the blatant use of nostalgia to try and hook a millennial audience. That includes the first act taking place in 1999-2002, with period-appropriate needle drops and dialogue. Stephanie’s father (Chris Parnell) kept her room intact during her coma, which features Clueless and Britney Spears posters. Perhaps the biggest example of this comes around the film’s halfway mark, where Stephanie and the other cheerleaders reenact Spears’ “Crazy” music video down to the outfits and choreography. References alone don’t make a movie; you have to use them in the right context and they have to add something to the story. All the “Crazy” sequence does is make me want to listen to Britney Spears again.

To make matters worse, Wilson is the weakest link in the cast, which isn’t good, considering she’s supposed to be the focus of the entire movie. It’s truly puzzling because she’s been genuinely funny in other films, most notably the Pitch Perfect trilogy. That sense of comic timing is absent here, as all of her lines land with the impact of a brick through a window. In contrast, the supporting cast manages to get in some good lines – particularly Richardson, who has some solid chemistry with Wilson. Richardson continues to be the best part of everything he’s in, including The Afterparty and The Tomorrow War, and that trend continues here.

Senior Year does actually manage to hit upon some profound truths in its third act, particularly how high school isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and how some friends will actually stick by you no matter what. It also leads to a surprising cameo that fits the film’s ’90s/early-2000s throwback vibe. But by that time, ninety minutes of lame jokes and cringy moments have passed, which lessens the emotional impact. I wish that Hardcastle would have kept more of that energy throughout the entire runtime, as it could have truly made the film stand out.

Senior Year could have used far more charm from its cast, as well as a director and writers who were actually willing to explore its wacky premise. There are far better teenage comedies out there, including Booksmart, Hulu’s Crush, and Prime Video’s upcoming original film Emergency, and I highly suggest giving them a go.

Senior Year is currently available to stream on Netflix.


Senior Year
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    Rating - 5.5/10
5.5/10

TL;DR

Senior Year could have used far more charm from its cast, as well as a director and writers who were actually willing to explore its wacky premise. There are far better teenage comedies out there, including Booksmart, Hulu’s Crush, and Prime Video’s upcoming original film Emergency, and I highly suggest giving them a go.