Mr. Movie

'Teen' stars needed to be allowed to shine

American Teen follows the reality TV formula. A camera crew tracks five teens -- three boys, two girls -- and their friends for 10 months.

Megan is pretty and popular with a personality that flows from mean-spirited to just plain nasty. Other than herself, Megan's main obsession is getting into Notre Dame.

Colin is the high school basketball star. His fixation is hogging the ball and thinking he has to personally win every game to get a college scholarship.

Hannah is a talented free spirit who wants to be a filmmaker, go to Hollywood and get the hell out of Indiana.

Mitch is best looking and the most likeable. He's bright, funny and not obsessed with anything.

Jake has an awful acne problem and is creepy. He is fanatical about girls. They can't stand him.

It's easy to see what director/writer Nanette Bernstein (The Kid Stays in the Picture) is trying to do as the lives of these kids unwind. She's shooting for something deep, insightful and intelligent and the teens of American Teen can't get her there.

Though you never see or hear it, from time-to-time the producer stops pretending to be a fly on the wall and pops into the picture and grills the followees about how they feel about certain topics.

Bernstein wants us to believe the goods delivered by these "ordinary" kids is the straight stuff. Teenagers are in the "it's all about me" phase of their lives. Make them the center of the universe, and no teen can resist the temptation to make outlandish statements that they'll completely regret when showing this documentary to friends 10 years from now.

Yes, I am light years from high school, so it's hard to relate. However, try as I might, I cannot remember having to work that hard to be as shallow as these kids.

And that shallowness is what makes American Teen fascinating on one hand and completely boring on the other.

Mr. Movie rating: 3 stars.

Rated PG-13 for mature themes, some drugs use, drinking, sexual situations. It opens today at the Carmike 12.