Every year there is a movie or two that appears at the Sundance Film Festival that leaves industry professionals, audience members and critics alike thinking "Why is that movie even here?" This year's candidate was obvious even before the festival began and boy, it sure did deliver. "Twelve," starring Chace Crawford and Emma Roberts and directed by none other than Joel "he keeps escaping from movie jail" Schumacher, is by far the most unintentionally campy piece of moviemaking to hit Park City in years. If only it was as entertaining as that description may lead you to believe.
"Twelve" is based on the novel of the same name which was written by then 17-year-old Nick McDonell and while its angsty melodrama may have worked on paper, onscreen comes across as though it was...written by a 17-year-old. Set in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the film centers on a group of rich, spoiled teens who spend their free time gossiping, doing drugs and trying to hook up (imagine that). However, hearing this narrative and character descriptions through a constant voice over by Keifer Sutherland (who has to spit out some of the most ludicrous lines imaginable) ruins any of the potential fun. It doesn't hurt that most of the characters are all unbelievable because they are either complete caricatures or just don't pass the suspension of disbelief test.
We begin with Crawford as Nick, a former rich kid whose father lost all his money after paying of his now deceased mother's cancers bills. To survive, Nick has become the best-looking pot dealer this side of the Mississippi walking the streets of Manhattan in his black Kenneth Cole coat and "don't mess with me" hoodie. Emily Meadows is Jessica, the perfect student who quickly becomes addicted to the mix of ecstasy and cocaine that gives the film its title and who falls to ludicrously insane depths in the span of only 72 hours (such as losing her virginity with drug dealing 50 Cent for a hit). There's the professional model who paints his toes blue and is so vain he gets mistakenly shot in the eye during the big shoot out at the end (deep stuff - get it? shot in the eyes?). Or, how about Miss Popularity who knows that every boy wants to sleep with her so she manipulates all of them to get what she wants? (Oh, you've seen that before?) Or, even better, how about the kid who goes and plays ball with the "minorities" in East Harlem just so he can pick fights and let out his frustration of never having dad say, "I love you"? In fact, the only actor or character in the film that leaves the proceedings with his dignity intact is Rory Culkin as the awkward member of the social circle who just tries to make everyone happy even though he doesn't really like any of his peers.
"Twelve" is such a mess of a movie its this close to a camp classic -- meaning it should be actually entertaining. In fact, there were moments where this critic thought, "Gee, this would be hilarious if was reenacted live on stage like 'The Brady Bunch' or 'Chips'". Unfortunately, "Twelve" takes itself so seriously it just ends up being bad camp which makes you want to cringe most of the time. Moreover, Schumacher delivers a stylistic mess of a movie. His use of intercutting flashbacks that occur on white background sound stages was considered passe in the mid-90's and they ain't coming back in 2010. The film, shot by Steven Fierberg, who collaborated with Ed Zwick on his upcoming "Love and Other Drugs," makes the proceedings look slick, but none of it looks real even when its painfully trying to.
The picture will be compared to the CW TV series "Gossip Girl," but its sadly not as self-aware or fun as that soap opera. You almost wish you could describe it as "Showgirls" meets "Gossip Girl," but that would be a riot and that's certainly not "Twelve." Although, that's not a bad idea for a movie, is it?
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