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Featured Movie Review: Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging

December 27th, 2009

Last year while working on the international box office stories, I came across a movie called Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging. My immediate reaction was, "Oh please let me review that movie!" How could you not want to see a movie with a name like that? So when the chance came to review it, I jumped at it. However, I knew almost nothing about the movie, other than the name and the fact that it was a mid-level hit back in its native Britain. This is very rare for me, as I usually have done extensive research into a movie before it first hits theaters and more than a few times I've known the ending before its premiere. In many ways, going in with absolutely no advance knowledge is very advantageous, because without that knowledge, there can be no bias going in. The only question now is whether this British comedy is a gem waiting to be discovered? Or will something be lost on its journey across the pond?

First an important note about the release of the DVD. I'm not sure when it's coming out. Some sources say January, some say February, while others say March. I do know it premieres on Nickelodeon on New Years Day.

Georgia Groome stars as Georgia Nicolson, a 14-year old girl living in England and hanging out with her friends, whom are collectively known as the "Ace Girls": Jas, Rosie, and Ellen. They are not the most popular kids in school; that would be Lindsay Marling and her friends, who are a year older than they are, and more "mature." But at least they have each other. Georgia's goals for the year include having a killer 15th birthday party and finding a boyfriend. She's having troubles with the first part, because she thinks her parents are horrified at her growing up. But at least things are looking up in the boyfriend department after the gang spot two brothers, Robbie and Tom, who just arrived at their school. When her father gets a transfer, and a promotion, he's off to New Zealand and Georgia has one less parent to deal with. When Jas starts dating Tom, she thinks she has an inside advantage at getting with Robbie. But when he starts dating Lindsay, her social life takes a hit. It gets worse when her mom starts spending way too much time with her handsome interior decorator. After some relationship advice backfires, it looks like she will lose her shot with Robbie, and maybe even her best friends in the process.

While I has almost no expectations going into the movie, that changed when I saw the name Gurinder Chadha on the screen during the opening credits. She's the director here and she also helped adapt the novel, and I love two of her previous films: Bride & Prejudice and Bend it Like Beckham. This movie is obviously aimed at a younger audience than those two films, but it maintains all of the charm of her previous efforts. She did an excellent job making a coming of age movie for teenage girls, although with no knowledge of the books, I can't tell if it is an accurate adaptation. I also like how she decided to keep the movie very British and didn't decide to "Americanize" it in an attempt to garner a wider audience. True, there are some uniquely British slang that I had trouble with ("Double cool with knobs on"???) but I find that's true of a lot of American slang ("cankles"???) and it's part of the film's appeal.

Special attention has to be given to Georgia Groome, who is amazing as the lead, as are the rest of the Ace Girls, but this is certainly Miss Groome's film and it lives or dies by her performance. She manages the tough balancing act of teenage awkwardness well. She doesn't come off as shallow or manipulative, even though her main goals are to be popular and to get a boyfriend, which are rather shallow, and her methods can be manipulative, especially after her mom gives her a copy of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. There's more of an innocent naivete to it. At least that's what I felt. On the other hand, if you think she's an immature brat, as some critics complained, then this movie will be unbearable, because she's front and center the entire time. That's not to say the supporting cast is poor, far from it, it's just that Groome is in nearly every scene.

My only real complaint about the movie was that it was too neatly wrapped up in the end. I understand building to a happy ending given the film's target demographic, but it felt a little too "movie magic moment" for me. For instance, I don't think there's a boss kindhearted enough to give someone a promotion because their daughter came in and was worried about him getting a divorce.

A side note on the film's rating. It earned a PG-13 rating in the United States and an equivalent 12A rating in the U.K., which seems a tad harsh. On the other hand, it was given a PG rating up in Canada, which is what I would give it. There is almost nothing in the movie I would consider objectionable. There are two scenes where girls wear thongs, but that's to be expected given the name of the movie, and it is important to the plot. Furthermore, the scenes were very short and none of it seems gratuitous or exploitative.

While the movie makes its debut on TV on New Year's Day, I have what I assume will be the final retail product for the film's DVD release and it is loaded with extras. Things start with an audio commentary track with the director and the four leads. Obviously with so many people here, there's a huge energy level, but we also get a lot of information as well. Yes, with four teenagers present, sometimes the signal to noise ratio is a little off, but this was still a blast to listen to. Very high replay value.

Next up are a series of featurettes, starting with Double Cool with Knobs On, a making-of / behind-the-scenes featurette that weighs in at a meaty 28 minutes. It goes through the whole filmmaking process, with a heavy emphasis on the cast. Looking after Angus is a four-minute featurette on the titular cat, who plays a critical part in the film. First Kisses is a three-minute featurette on all of the kisses that happen in the movie. There's a featurette on Angus, one on Snogging, so there has to be one on Thongs. To be more specific, it's on Thongs, Bras, Lippie, and Other Life-Saving Essentials, which is about the costumes. Working with Gurinder is a three-minute featurette with the cast praising the director. Getting the Angus Look is just two minutes long and it is about the cinematography. Step Inside The Nicolson Household is a three-minute featurette on the production design. First Night Nerves spends two minutes at the film's premiere. There are six Angus Video Diaries, which feature behind-the-scenes footage. Most of these are quite short, but combined they look at nearly every aspect of the movie-making process and in total run close to 50 minutes.

There are nine deleted scenes that run 10 minutes combined and six minutes of outtakes. Things wrap-up with an image gallery and a music video.

The Verdict

Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging is a British coming of age movie that should please fans of the genre. If you are in the right target demographic, the movie is absolutely worth watching when it airs on Nickelodeon on News Year's Day and the DVD is worth buying, whenever it comes out.

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