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Dustin Putman

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The In Crowd (2000)
1 Star

Directed by Mary Lambert
Cast: Lori Heuring, Susan Ward, Nathan Bexton, Matthew Settle, Laurie Fortier, Kim Murphy, Daniel Hugh Kelly, Ethan Erickson, Jay R. Ferguson, Katharine Towne, Erinn Bartlett, A.J. Buckley, Tess Harper.
2000 – 108 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (for violence, profanity, brief nudity, and sexual situations).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, July 23, 2000.

"The In Crowd" is the type of film that is usually banished by its studio to the second or third week of January, an annual dumping ground for lackluster movies that have next to no chance of succeeding financially, or otherwise. The fact that it is being released in mid-July says even less for the faith its studio, Warner Brothers, has in it, as it will surely be buried even more quickly amid the bigger, flashier summer pictures. And once word gets out on just how bad it really is, expect it to exit theaters in another week and be nestled in video stores by the end of the year. Why didn't everyone just save themselves the money, count their losses, and send this one straight to cable, where it belongs--just barely.

Set at a ritzy country club beach resort, Adrien Williams (Lori Heuring) has gotten a job for the summer as one of the club's staff members. Just released from a mental institution where she has resided in recent years for as-of-yet unknown circumstances, Adrien yearns to get her life into order, and working at the resort is her first step back into the real world. The problem is, the world she has just stepped into is about as authentic as a plastic Christmas tree, and most of the people just as artificial.

Soon, Adrien has been befriended by the beautiful, socially powerful Brittany (Susan Ward), who draws her into the lifestyle of her snobby friends, all of whom seem to bathe in their family's money without any goals of their own, aside from getting wasted by booze and drugs. Brittany and Adrien seem to make the perfect match, until they both grow an attraction for their hunky tennis instructor, Matt (Matthew Settle). When Matt takes a stronger liking to the more genuine Adrien, Brittany's thin facade of kindness and stability begins to slowly shatter, and her new friend turns into her next target.

"The In Crowd" is a thoroughly disposable psycho-thriller aimed at the teen demographic, and one of the very worst theatrical films of its type in recent memory. At a needlessly long 108 minutes, the film meanders along with often nowhere to go, all leading up to a conclusion that can easily be telegraphed by the twenty-minute mark. The clumsy screenplay, by Mark Gibson and Philip Halprin, is shallow and strictly generic, and the unfocused direction, by Mary Lambert, practically screams, "first-time filmmaker." The problem is, Lambert is a veteran, having previously made 1989's "Pet Sematary" and its 1992 sequel, and seems to have lost here whatever vigor and style she had for her profession to begin with.

With a decidedly large cast of characters, it would take only extraordinary actors to pull off the one-dimensional roles that have been written for them. Unfortunately, most of them are clearly inexperienced (it doesn't take the help of the Internet Movie Database to figure this one out), and the only one that really stands out is Susan Ward (TV's "Sunset Beach"), as the potentially unhinged Brittany. Usually over-the-top in her portrayal, this acting choice works because she is the only one to add any true energy to her scenes. The one exception is Nathan Bexton (1999's "Go"), having fun and hamming it up as Bobby, the sole good guy of the "in" crowd who, nonetheless, is an undoubted alcoholic.

In the central role, Lori Heuring (1998's "The Newton Boys") is passable, but too often underacts to the point of nausea, or fails in trying to sell her more dramatic moments. While physically fetching, her overall blandness and obvious confusion in the motives of her character show through far too often than they should. All other actors more or less blend into the background, an amazing feat considering how many prominent supporting players there are, including Matthew Settle (1998's "I Still Know What You Did Last Summer"), Ethan Erickson (1999's "Jawbreaker"), Katharine Towne (2000's "What Lies Beneath"), Laurie Fortier (1996's "To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday"), Kim Murphy (1998's "City of Angels"), and Daniel Hugh Kelly (1999's "Chill Factor").

It would be relatively easy to go on about how the film is really a drama that ruined any chances it had at being successful by letting itself be awkwardly molded into the form of a cliched, predictable thriller, or how the movie is so badly lit that the movie appears as if it was filmed with no source of light other than the sun, but why bother? When it all comes right down to it, I honestly would be hard-pressed to come up with five positive things, no matter how minor or inconsequential they may be, to say about "The In Crowd."

©2000 by Dustin Putman

Dustin Putman