Starter for 10 (2007) ***
Directed by Tom Vaughan
With all of the classic eighties comedies out there that people of a certain age idolize, I’m left to conclude that a film like Starter for 10, clearly paying tribute to many of those films, is somewhat unnecessary. I was ten in 1990, so I’m not someone that holds films like Pretty in Pink, Say Anything and Class to much esteem at all. People younger than I may not have seen these films at all, and thus, I’d recommend viewing the originals over Starter for 10, which is nothing more than an adequately entertaining rehash, complete with a soundtrack containing songs that Adam Sandler parodies in The Wedding Singer.
Cliché after cliché pop up in the film’s storyline about an intellectually curious college student named Brian Jackson who struggles with friendship, love, family problems and a place on his school’s team set to appear on a televised quiz show called University Challenge. Brian’s been obsessed with knowing as much as possible ever since he used to watch quiz shows with his now deceased father. He comes from modest means (despite the fact that he lives in a house next to the beach), and thus, many of the friends he leaves behind are worried that he’s going to change when he’s surrounded by university “wankers.”
Brian’s male roommates are wearing dresses when he arrives (see the movie Class in order to understand this scene’s unoriginality), and immediately, they attend a party where he meets an attractive activist named Rebecca, played wonderfully by Rebecca Hall who was so brilliant in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. At first, Brian’s smitten with Rachel until he meets Alice (Alice Eve), a sexy blond who cheats with Brian’s help so she can compete on University Challenge as well.
They go on an awkward date, and by the end,
The next day, Brian makes it to the taping of University Challenge. Something happens which humiliates Brian, and it’s through this horrible event that Brian’s able to put his priorities in order. The ending can be seen coming from a mile away, and yet, it works almost as an argument that Molly Ringwald should have ended up with Jon Cryer and not Andrew McCarthy at the end of Pretty in Pink. Well, that’s the way I saw it at least.
James McAvoy overacts in his performance as Brian. Perhaps McAvoy has been in too many films where he needed to be larger than life, such as Atonement, The Chronicles of Narnia and The Last King of Scotland. Here, he seems to constantly strive to surprise us with his unique mannerisms and his incessant facial twitches. McAvoy is an exceptionally interesting actor, and as such, it doesn’t work when he’s aggressively trying to be interesting like he was in Starter for 10.
Nothing feels original at all in this movie, from the love story to the competition to the scene at
Younger viewers might have to judge Starter for 10 on its own merits and not as a tribute. For them, the clichés might not register as such. For those that can reference those movies from two decades ago, Starter for 10 might be a fun nostalgic pic, though I believe the film should have been more obvious in its intentions. Then perhaps it could have been more appealing. As it is, Starter for 10 is worth checking out when it debuts on television, perhaps on BBC America. By the way, Pretty in Pink, Say Anything and Class are even more worthy of your time if you haven’t seen them before!