Bad Movies We Love: Spring Breakdown
Like all responsible Movieline readers, I'm strapping my debit card to my garter and seeing Bridesmaids this weekend. A few times, perhaps? In the name of hilarious lady ensembles? Indeed. And not just because I write about the potential for female-driven comedies in my spare time, but because Bridesmaids seems like a watershed moment of sass and brass in this very slim genre, which brings us to today's Bad Movie We Love: the hokey, pointless, and righteous 2009 non-hit Spring Breakdown.
About Spring Breakdown: It is bad. It is direct-to-DVD bad, like Beethoven's 4th or Ernest Goes to Hanoi. But it is lovable. Join us in commemoration of Amy Poehler, Rachel Dratch, and Parker Posey's dopey, yet delightful attempt at a girl-empowering spring break caper.
Gayle (Amy Poehler), Judi (Rachel Dratch), and Becky (Parker Posey) are joy-deprived friends who want to sidestep their humdrum, TJ Maxx-sponsored existences. They plan to visit the Wimmin's Music Festival in Tempe, Arizona, where Tracy Chapman "and her Fast Car" will be playing. (I picture Ana Gasteyer's old SNL folkie Cinder Calhoun hitting the stage to sing "Basted in Blood.") But Becky's boss Senator Kay Bee Hartmann (a pre-Glee Jane Lynch) learns she may be running for vice president, and because her daughter Ashley (Amber Tamblyn) is heading to spring break in South Padre this year, Kay assigns Becky to keep an eye on Ashley in case she loses her morals, ends up in a "Girls Gone Bonkers" video, and disgraces the family. Becky seizes the opportunity to enjoy South Padre and suggests that Gayle and Judi ditch Tempe and accompany her. They oblige, pledge to go crazy, and a week of foam parties and keggers commences.
I hope that's all the story you want in an 80-minute movie. I'm personally edified.
Thank God I spent my intro heralding the potential of women's ensembles, because now comes the sad moment where I admit that Amy Poehler is the only hysterical part of Spring Breakdown. At the start of the movie, she sheepishly asks a blind man (Will Arnett) on a date, using the alluring line, "I have two tickets to the Amy Grant concert."
During her South Padre lark, she befriends a troupe of stuck-up girls called The Sevens, so named because they're "seven hot chicks in seven pairs of Seven cut-off jeans." Since SNL alum Dratch helped concoct Spring Breakdown's story, it's nice that an incisive satire on clique culture finds its way into the movie. Makes a nice dent in Tina Fey's monopoly on the subject. Holler, Sophie Monk!
Gayle also befriends a rootin'-tootin' bag of dependency issues named Charlene (Missi Pyle), whose drunken eyes cross and uncross more times than a go-kart track. The great thing about Poehler's approach to the movie is how she plays straight-man to tipplers like Charlene while shoehorning in her own loopiness at unexpected moments. Her advice on man-wrangling? "If you shake it, he will come." Best rewrite of a Field of Dreams quote in all of early 2009!
Poor Rachel Dratch and Parker Posey. Dratch's best moment in the movie comes at the beginning during a flashback of a high school talent competition. Her Cyndi Lauper impression is sterling! If I'm Ed McMahon, I'm giving her rendition of "True Colors" three and one-quarter stars. But she spends the rest of the movie squealing over tequila shots and making eyes at a shirtless hottie, hoping sheer energy compensates for uninspired dialogue. It doesn't, but can you blame her for trying? I mean, you can. Yes. I blame SNL every single weekend for the same thing. I guess I'd sympathize more if Dratch's vulnerability played a part in her character's development, but instead, all we get is more squealing. That's to say nothing of Posey's performance, which is stiff and uninviting, much like her guest-judging stint on Project Runway's season one finale. Not that I'm still bitter and annoyed, six years and two months later.
But wait! Fun is back! Jane Lynch's part is smallish since she doesn't visit South Padre until the end of the movie, but she's always a pleasure in even the most underwritten, over-pantsuited roles. That's a relief, because from 2006-2010, she made appearances in as many as 25 movies, and child, they weren't all 40-Year-Old Virgins. She worked overtime in most of those, and here, she's earning time-and-a-half for her hard-strutting brio.
Seth Meyers co-stars as Dratch's wayward fiancé William, who Dratch finds massaging the male gardener one afternoon. The purple and teal polo shirts tell his story, but William is obviously gay, obviously not interested in Rachel Dratch, and obviously too one-dimensional to garner real laughs. OK, wait, here's one: William abbreviates everything he says with insipid slang, and when his fiancé stresses him out, he tells her she's giving him "a nervy break-D," which is short for "nervous breakdown." I loose a chortle here. A quick one, but a real one. A chortle you tuck between the collars on your polos.
As such, Spring Breakdown (Springy Break-D) is charming but inessential, a bland tableau of PG rump-shaking and cocktail-chugging. Here's hoping Bridesmaids takes a hint from its ebullience, but adds a giant wedding bouquet of brilliance to the mix.