In 2002, I wrote my first film review for The Waynedale News. A year away from a driver’s license and from my little sister’s birth, I was a sophomore in high school and, although I would never willingly go back to that age, there are still things I am nostalgic for, namely: my pre-internet brain, pop music, and Blockbuster. Netflix’s Senior Year capitalizes on Millennial nostalgia much better than last year’s Space Jam sequel, with some innocent digs at Gen Z for good measure.
In Senior Year, Stephanie (Angourie Rice/Rebel Wilson) is at the top of her game—cheer captain and about to be crowned prom queen to her boyfriend, Blaine’s (Tyler Barnhardt/Justin Hartley), prom king. Then her rival, Tiffany (Ana Yi Puig/Zoe Chao), arranges for a cheer stunt to go wrong and Stephanie ends up in a coma for twenty years. When she wakes up she wants to go back to high school to finish out her senior year, reclaiming the experiences she was supposed to have. Fortunately, her best friends Martha (Molly Brown/Mary Holland) and Seth (Zaire Adams/Sam Richardson) work at the school and can keep her out of trouble. Well, they can try.
Rebel Wilson’s brand of comedy has often relied on her character’s inflated self-confidence, but what makes her performance as Stephanie so funny is that she did have plenty of reason to be so confident before the coma. This time, she’s not a buffoon, she’s just a teenager in a 37-year-old’s body. Everyone in the story is a little zany, but Mary Holland’s performance makes Martha a sympathetic “straight-man” to Stephanie’s antics. As the new most popular girl, Bri Loves, Jade Bender delivers a career-launching performance. Unfortunately, as her mother, Tiffany, Zoe Chao is too stiff and shrill, standing out negatively. (But, girl, don’t think I didn’t notice that you named your kid after Ms. Brittney Jean Spears).
With plenty of easter eggs and a cameo by Alicia Silverstone, Senior Year is a good-natured, fun romp down memory lane. Its message about popularity and the live-streamed apology video are predictable, but I laughed so much that it was hard to care.
Senior Year was directed by Alex Hardcastle and written by Andrew Knauer, Arthur Pielli, and Brandon Scott Jones. It runs 1 hour 51 minutes & is rated R.
On Hulu, the new romantic comedy The Valet puts a quirky twist on a classic fish out of water setup. When famous actress Olivia Allan (Samara Weaving) gets caught by the paparazzi fighting with her lover, married real estate developer Vincent Royce (Max Greenfield), he pays the valet, Antonio (Eugenio Derbez), who happened to be in the photo to pretend to date Olivia until the bad press blows over. Naturally, the differences between Antonio’s family-oriented, working-class community and Olivia’s lonely, glamorous life provide opportunities for comedy and personal growth. Given the difference in their ages, however, I seriously doubted if they would end up together at the end, a twist that provided this romcom with a slightly different take on what a happy ending looks like.
The Valet is a weird, fun little movie. Eugenio Derbez reminds me of Mr. Bean and I do not quite know what to do with that other than point it out. He is funny and sympathetic as Antonio, though, and I appreciated how he gradually plays the valet as less bewildered and more frustrated as the story unfolds. Samara Weaving’s performance is fairly uneven, but when her character actually relaxes, her charm shines through. I loved Max Greenfield in his Veronica Mars days, but in this movie, his acting has just one obnoxious note.
Getting beneath the romantic comedy surface, the relationships between the secondary characters give The Valet texture and some great comedy. My husband’s favorite part was a budding bromance between Stegman (John Pirrucello) and Kapoor (Ravi Patel), the dueling private investigators hired by Vincent and his wife, Kathryn (Betsy Brandt). Meanwhile, a late-in-life romance simmers between Antonio’s mother, Cecilia (Carmen Salinas), and their landlord, Mr. Kim (Ji Yong Lee), even though they do not share a language. Watching their relationship deepen through the interpretation from Korean to English to Spanish via their children is a unique combination of embarrassing and heartwarming. In all, The Valet is worth watching for those subplots more than for the romantic comedy elements.
The Valet was directed by Richard Wong and written by Bob Fisher and Rob Greenberg, based on the film by Francis Veber. It runs 124 minutes and is rated PG-13.