Blu-ray Review: Spring Breakdown (2009)

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You know how annoying it is when you're at a party and you see one of those guys who just assumes that the more beer he pounds and the louder he gets, the more hilarious he is? Or the random drunk girl who shows up at the party already loaded and proceeds to dirty dance with a wall... even though there's no music playing? Well, if you multiply these poor unfortunate souls by a dozen, that's basically how obnoxious movies about spring break are.

It's sort of like when you're forced to look at a photo album at a family function when you politely inquire about a trip and the person describing everyone in each picture states "oh man, you should've been there," every five minutes or as disheartening as meeting a friend you haven't seen in years and in the attempt of catching up with them, you realize that most of their stories begin with, "and this one time, I got so wasted..."

Crude, rude, and filled with the type of cardboard characters we'd normally try to avoid in real life-- you get a sense that Spring Breakdown screenwriter Ryan Shiraki (working from a story idea by Shiraki and Rachel Dratch) was hoping his film would be Romy and Michelle's Spring Break or a female-centric version of Old School at the very least.

But and so unfortunately, essentially what we have with this Warner Premiere is the equivalent of a Saturday Night Live skit that killed in rehearsal, was left in the show with the highest of expectations where instead of sending us into hysterics it died halfway through the five minute sketch. Yet, instead of jumping ship, the actors all kept working at it for eighty additional minutes-- just like the drunk dude who gets louder or the girl who spins faster at the party to try and make you laugh or at least notice them.

Unfortunately, it fails miserably, so like the loud guy's skanky counterpart who shakes it like Gwen Stefani (not understanding that maybe it's inappropriate to do so at a dinner party)-- the insanely talented cast of the film willingly puts themselves through comedy hell just to try and steal even the tiniest chuckle or half-smile from viewers who've taken a chance on it due to the sheer star power involved.

Although in You've Got Mail Parker Posey proved just how masterful she is at bossing people around (even yelling at the tic-tacs in her purse!), in Spring Breakdown she turns into a frumpy environmentalist working for an oil addicted, shotgun toting female senator played by one of my favorite scene stealers in the form of Role Models, For Your Consideration, and 40 Year Old Virgin star Jane Lynch.

Set in Washington D.C. fifteen years after Posey's Becky and her two best friends Judi (Rachel Dratch) and Gayle (Amy Poehler) were booed off the stage of their collegiate talent show for their love of performing "women centered folk music," they realize that although they have fun with their make your own pizza parties, karaoke Fridays, and yearly Americana road trips, they're not exactly living the lives they always wanted.

While Posey's Becky is constantly humiliated by her boss, she gets an unexpected opportunity for a higher staff position when she's persuaded to travel to South Padre Island to covertly keep an eye on the senator's daughter Ashley (Amber Tamblyn) during spring break.

Despite fearing she's going to be letting down her friends and their plans to travel to a women's folk celebration in Tempe, AZ-- after seeing eye dog trainer Gayle is rejected by a blind guy for not being beautiful enough (Poehler's husband Will Arnett in a nice cameo) and the living-in-denial Judi finally figures out the millionth clue everyone else knows in realizing her fiance is gay-- the two decide they'll tag along with Becky to party away their problems.

Although they're led to believe that Ashley is a stereotypical girl-gone-wild, she's essentially a younger version of Becky as a nerdy college student who lives for the renaissance festival and is crushed when her boyfriend dumps her for a beautiful sorority bimbo.

Determined to prove her boyfriend wrong that good girls can be bad and her mother right that she's as popular and as wild as her mother had been at her age, Tamblyn's Ashley ventures to South Padre where Becky and her friends hope to accidentally encounter her, without letting on that they were sent to South Padre for that very reason.

Of course, Becky and Ashley hit it off since they have so much in common. But while Becky takes her duty seriously in trying to as she notes, "turn girls into better human beings," Mean Girls star Poehler ends up reliving that film's plot as the Lindsay Lohan character this time when she befriends the hot sorority sisters by getting rid of predatory, horny males with her dog training skills and Dratch discovers what she's been missing out on by living life with a gay guy. To make up for lost time, she begins drowning her sorrows in endless alcohol along with the scene-stealing Missi Pyle as an old cougar who runs the hotel they're staying at and is celebrating her sixteenth spring break.

So what begins with some mild promise in its amusing set up of nerdy women trying to stand up for themselves ends up collapsing into an obnoxious, tasteless, and painfully unfunny version of all of the spring break stereotypes and annoying rejects from parties, bars, and clubs that you can imagine stuffed into an eighty-four minute work that feels twice as long.

Granted, the likable cast and especially Pyle who damn near saves the whole film and the under-utilized Lynch try their best. Of the main trio, special credit should be given to Poehler who-- similar to her work alongside Tina Fey in the weak but more amusing Baby Mama-- manages to improve every scene she's in by going all out in any given situation no matter how ridiculous or demeaning it may be, attempting to at least keep you interested even when the characters have long since worn out their welcome.

The Blu-ray technical aspects are solid sound-wise especially given the film's fitting soundtrack that compliments the setting and although the picture is very clear, some of the flesh tones appear a bit soft and as I can only suggest it as a rental anyway (unless you find you just have to have it)-- depending on product availability you'd probably do just as well to rent it in DVD since my guess is that the quality is probably fairly similar.

With a ho-hum commentary by Shiraki and Dratch, extra scenes that don't add any bonus humor and a laughless gag reel-- the major highlight of the Blu-ray if you become a fan that is would be the digital copy feature which is compatible with Windows Media and portable devices.

Moreover, of the recent female-driven films I've seen lately on disc-- it's somewhere in the middle. The break-down: on the one hand, it's infinitely better than the talented Heather Graham being relegated to starring in what is essentially one extended toilet joke in Baby on Board; given far more bonus points for genuine "girl power" sentiment than the anti-feminist Bride Wars despite the fact that that film actually felt like its screenplay was a bit more polished; yet not quiet as genuinely entertaining as the overwhelmingly predictable but more earnest and emotionally satisfying Renee Zellweger vehicle New in Town.

While it's challenging to make any movie about spring break or beach life actually worthwhile (see Surfer Dude for proof)-- save perhaps for the tongue-in-cheek underrated '80s take on the Frankie and Annette pictures as witnessed in Shag--the biggest disappointment is that we're dealing with a dream movie cast of great female comedic talent. In fact, these women are so perfect that they almost made me wish other funny women would've been brought to the table as well such as Maya Rudolph, Sarah Silverman, Kathy Griffin, Tina Fey, Cheri O'Teri, Debra Messing, Lauren Graham, Lisa Kudrow, Megan Mullaly, Cheryl Hines, Judy Greer, and Molly Shannon. Furthermore, it would've been preferable if they would've sat down to write something that would've been much better suited to their tremendous talent rather than forcing the Breakdown stars to endure salsa fights and keg stands.

Of course-- as a woman who wishes there would be more films for women that we can actually laugh with rather than just turning us into stereotypical bridezillas or house bunnies-- it's definitely worth a look for fans of the cast alone to send a message to Hollywood to at least make more films with a large female cast since for every one Spring Breakdown we're faced with roughly twenty frat pack male buddy movies. Still, that's not enough to recommend doing more than just saying you can rent it for a few chuckles. However, like the drunk girl or loud bombed guy at the party, once it ends, you'll quickly forget about it.