I was lead to believe that this film was something akin to Mean Girls ie. A teen movie that is surprisingly well written and still manages to entertain however frivolous. I had liked Emma Stone in the previous two roles I had seen her in (Superbad and Zombieland) with her dry wit and unaffected charm, so I decided to give it a go. I left my cynicism at the door and went in willing to love this movie but was inevitably let down with the film that ensued.
The comedy is just far too broad and some of the characters are cliched and unoriginal. Amanda Bynes' character Marianne (the uptight Christian) is about as complicated as the recipe for mac and cheese. And a lot of her facial expressions would rival that of Jerry Lewis. There is a scene where she is sharpening pencils which is particularly excruciating. With this type of character, I've always thought that the Tracey Flick approach is more interesting. Which is to just play it straight, totally innocent and truly believe all the virtues which you are spouting. In other words for the character to be sweet on the outside but rotten at the core. If you want to see the subject of religion explored in a teen movie setting than I would suggest the film Saved, not a brilliant movie but is entertaining enough and doesn't try to ram the moral down your throat.
Rhiannon (played by Alyson Michalka) is also ridiculously over the top as the vacuous, big chested best friend of Olive. Consequently this does not make for a believable rapport between the two actresses.
There were a lot of moments in this film which didn't quite hit the mark. There is a key scene in the movie where Olive (Emma Stone) is faking a sex scene with the ashamedly gay Brandon, which is supposed to be uproariously funny but I've seen this done in other films before (of the top of my head I can think of a scene almost exactly like this in Romy and Michelle's Highschool Reunion), so I was left unamused by the scene. The film constantly cuts back to Olive delivering a monologue down a web cam, most of these moments are clunky as they just seem over written and unnatural. In one of these scenes Olive is talking about how she wants an 'awesome 80's movie moment' and we are shown a montage of clips from fun 80's movies including Say Anything..., Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Breakfast Club,etc. Note to the director- Just showing clips from awesome films does not automatically make your movie cool by association. Then instead of creating their own original 'awesome movie moment' (which they had the perfect set up to do) they just recreated the scene from Say Anything... where John Cusack is holding up the ghetto blaster on Diane Court's lawn. Olive also states that she would like 'to have a musical number..for no apparent reason' which is a reference to the twist and shout parade scene in Ferris Bueller... But for me the point in that scene is to illustrate the sheer absurdity and grandness of the day (it's every teen's fantasy.) Whereas the musical number that she gets towards the end of this film actually IS pointless.
The one saving grace of the film are the parents who are played by Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson and provide some of the only genuinely funny moments in the film. They have an unusual family unit but they somehow manage to make it believable. Emma Stone seems to also retain her charm in spite of the inconsistent character she was given to portray.
This film was a weird mix of verbose, pseudo-intellectual dialogue and screw ball comedy which turned out to be not a very good pairing.