Senior year of high school is different for everyone. Some have fun at prom, some come down with a hard case of senioritis, and some fall into a coma after a failed cheerleading stunt and wake up 20 years later. The latter is not an everyday event, but it is the story of Stephanie Conway in Senior Yearthe newest Netflix original. This throwback comedy begins in 2002 with a young Stephanie (Angourie Rice), the most popular girl in school, leading the cheer squad with a hot boyfriend. After she (literally) falls from grace, she wakes up as a 37-year-old portrayed by Rebel Wilson in a comedy that fails in the funnies and familiarities.
I’m not the type of movie watcher who likes to predict what will happen at the end of the film. I want to stay in the present as much as possible, but sometimes, it’s so easy that I can’t help myself. That is certainly the case in this film, as every character is so unbelievably familiar that you know where they will end up right from the moment they arrive on screen. When you have a story where the protagonist is a popular shallow teenage girl, the only place to take them is to have them learn the error of their ways.
One of the main characters is Seth Novacelik (Sam Richardson), who is Stephanie’s childhood friend that has a crush on her. The movie’s antagonist is Tiffany Blanchette-Balbo (Zoë Chao), the mean girl in high school who serves as Stephanie’s archrival. Not only are all these characters walking two-dimensional clichés, but they are all lifted from the movie this film desperately wants to be: 13 Going On 30. Seth is Mike Flamhaff, the nice guy with a crush on the female protagonist, and Tiffany is Lucy Wyman, the mean girl who serves as the film’s antagonist.
Even the premise of the movie feels like a spin on the Jennifer Garner film. Both films feature a teenager waking up in an adult’s body, allowing an adult actress to have fun acting like a teenager. Wilson is excellent at portraying the character, and she brings all of her charms to the role, but the contrast of a 37-year-old in a high school classroom is much funnier on paper than executed on the screen. The premise has all the charms of an early 2000s comedy without enough fun in its execution.
This movie genuinely feels like a comedy that forgets to be fun. There are some dance sequences and a music video scene that are very enjoyable, but most of the characters are pretty unlikeable. Although the premise is about a teenager who finds herself in an adult’s body, the other adult characters have not changed since they were teenagers either. Tiffany and her husband Blaine (Justin Hartley) are two characters who don’t mature at all in their twenty years since high school, and they can be hard to watch.
What makes everything even worse is that the movie’s characterization of a present-day high school is wildly exaggerated to the point where everyone behaves like an unrealistic caricature. It overdramatizes the school’s commitment to progressive values for comedic effect, but the result is ultimately more cringeworthy than funny. This movie feels like it was written by people who have a good idea of how high school cliques were portrayed in the early 2000s without any idea of how they are in real life, past or present.
Senior Year also completely glosses over the ramifications of its inciting event. A young Tiffany conspires with two cheerleader friends to get them to purposely not catch Stephanie, leading her to fall into a coma for 20 years. The fact that a teenager attempted to murder a classmate is never brought up again when Tiffany should have faced consequences for her actions. Furthermore, the 13 Going On 30 rip-offs continue with a scene near the end where the protagonist sits in a taxi with their driver, who was successful in high school, but then their life took a turn for the worse when they grew older.
Ultimately, Senior Year is a movie with nothing new to say. The film lacks fresh ideas, so it simply plays like a bad cover of a hit song. Wilson is funny in the movie, but everything surrounding her is frustratingly mediocre, with a poor final act featuring conflict and resolution that both feel extremely forced. The film has funny moments, but not nearly enough for a story that could have excelled in both humor and dramatic weight, but doesn’t go far enough in either. Instead, this film feels like a retread of what you’ve already seen and is easily skipped
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 4 equates to “Poor.” The negatives overweigh the positive aspects making it a struggle to get through.