Mandy Moore's new film reminds Caroline Kepnes exactly what's wrong with today's high school flicks
Mandy Moore, A Walk to Remember

Why pretty ugly girls ruin teen movies

If you’re an ugly girl, high school is pretty much the worst place on earth. Movies used to know this, and not run away from it. Sissy Spacek’s watery eyed sadness in ”Carrie.” Molly Ringwald’s genuine repulsion at her puny breasts in ”16 Candles.” Heather Matarazzo’s I-Hate-Myself posture in ”Welcome to the Dollhouse.” Maybe it’s Columbine or maybe the genre’s just tired, but teen movies have become, well, a little freakin’ wimpy. We don’t get ugly girls who simmer with frustration; we get pretty ugly girls who are only a few coats of lipstick away from starring in a Six Pence None the Richer video.

I dare you to sit through pop tartlet Mandy Moore’s turn as a social leper/bible clutcher in ”A Walk to Remember.” The sub-Britney chanteuse is, for me, the pretty ugly girl that breaks the teen movie genre’s back. ”A Walk To Remember” suggests — in a slick, underhanded sort of way — that ugly people are ugly by choice, that they’ve just chosen not to embrace their inner hottie. Imagine if Carrie, instead of torching everyone, let one of the catty girls take her shopping. And then walked into school and knocked em all dead… with her looks. Or what if ”Dollhouse” featured Dawn (a.k.a., ”Weiner Dog”) getting the guy of her dreams simply because she took off her horn-rimmed glasses and blow-dried her locks?

The ugly girl’s discomfort in her own skin makes her more empowered than the pretty girl. She’s not the type to be moved to self-love by some Freddie Prinze Jr. clone swooning: ”You were ugly! Now you’re pretty!” She owns her journey. If a guy shows up with a birthday cake and pledges his undying affection, it’s not because she changed to please him. It’s because the dude finally opened his puppy dog brown eyes.

Part of me thinks, well, duh, of course the u.g. is gone. By and large, men make movies. And most dudes would rather watch a p.u.g than an u.g. It’s human freakin’ nature, right? If you’re a sixteen-year-old boy and your girlfriend wants to drag you to some sappy movie, you’re bumming, no doubt. But if there’s a hot chick — Mandy freakin’ Moore! — well, at least you got something to stare at. P.u.g.s mean profit. Just ask their pop cultural daddy, Playboy founder Hugh Heffner. See, Heff knew that a dowdy librarian who turned into a babe right before the reader’s lusty eyes is way better than a plain old babe.

But can’t we kind of get over it? So many recent movies have minimized teen angst to a fleeting inconvenient thing easily cured by a hot guy and a red dress that it’s just not funny any more. If you need proof, check out the lousy box office for teen movie spoof ”Not Another Teen Movie.” The parody’s poster actually spelled out PRETTY UGLY GIRL in black and white. Had this genuinely funny attack on p.u.g.s been released three years ago, alongside, say, ”She’s All That,” it would have seemed relevant. Now, audiences are so p.u.g.-ed out that chuckling at the movie’s poster didn’t make them want to sit through, yep, another teen movie.

Are there no more teen movies to be made? Couldn’t some great, searing u.g. movie come along and do for the teen genre what ”The Sopranos” did for mob movies? Is anyone actually game for another ”Walk to Remember”? We all went to high school and some of us are even in those hallowed halls right now. We know that the outcasts don’t become cool-ified after 10 minutes with a prom queen and a tube of eyeliner. Don’t make Mandy Moore plod around with dark, messy hair for no reason at all. For ugliness’ sake, bring back the u.g.!

A Walk to Remember
  • Movie
  • 101 minutes