The Anatomy of an American Teen Comedy

I’ve been watching a lot of comedies lately, meaning to review every single one of them. The problem is, even though I enjoy them immensely, every time I sit down to write a review my mind draws a blank. I’d be lucky to get three sentences that pretty much sum up the movie. These summaries are nothing like the “treatments” given by Hollywood types with slicked-back hair and aviator sunglasses, with a smug grin trying so hard not to laugh at their own jokes, “now get this…” These summaries would reduce the greatest summer blockbuster hit to less excitement than the blurb on a can of dog food. I get the sense that there must be a template, maybe even a Microsoft Word template, for Hollywood teen comedies.

The Cast

Main Guy
The main character is either a nerd or stud but most likely a nerd (preferably a virgin that doesn’t know his true potential yet). He is usually a good-natured guy that is struggling to be accepted or trying to stay true to his love or crush and this usually leads him into an assortment of trouble.

Best Friend
The best friend’s type usually depends on the main character (if the main guy’s a nerd, he’s a nerd). The best friend is the devil on the shoulder providing worldly advice while leading the character astray though never on purpose. The friend is a loyal accomplice and fellow traveller, serving to round out the main character’s persona.

Other Nerd
The other nerd serves a variety of purposes depending on the movie’s requirements. The other nerd is either other-worldly brilliant or borderline disadvantaged, serving as the but of jokes and physical humor. If the main guy’s also a nerd, the other nerd helps him look cooler than he actually is.

The Crew
If the cast is mainly supposed to be college-aged, there will most likely be a crew of friends. They may be fraternity brothers, room mates or simply friends.

The Girl
This is the object of desire. She is either an impossibly hot, popular girl or the main character’s best friend from prehistoric days that he’s been hiding feelings for her the whole time.

The Plot

The plot of a comedy usually revolves around an impossible challenge, usually involving travel by car. The protagonist has to go somewhere by a certain time or is on a quest, usually to lose their virginity or meet some girl. The “road trip” is a marvelous device because it allows an ensemble cast, a buddy pair or a crew, to get involved in a plethora of comedic situations and make an exit before it gets old. Usually, the vehicle of choice is either stolen (such as a taxi or school buss) or borrowed (big brother’s prized sports car, dad’s Cadillac, etc.) and takes an unusual beating. In many cases, if the car is important to the main character’s well-being, it gets restored to mint condition.

Although the journey usually involves a round trip, despite the crazy mishaps and impossible situations on the way there, the return journey is always uneventful and wraps up in the last 15 minutes of the movie as the main character summarizes all the wonderful developments since the fateful trip.

Situations along the way involve an assortment of sexual humor. On a road journey, they usually stop somewhere along the way for a rest or diversion and usually leads to a sexual encounter or being chased around by a villain of some sort.

Despite the impossible odds of completing the quest, the hero of our tale emerges victorious and the laundry list of crimes committed along the way are brushed aside.