Both actresses are ready for all the wacky jokes the movie asks for, which is why Senior Year seems like such a waste of both of their talents. TV veteran Alex Hardcastle’s feature-length debut sounds like a list of early 2000s references brought to life with vigor. Too often, the film feels like a two-hour meme of Leonardo DiCaprio pointing at the TV from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Mentions of CK1 cologne, Smirnoff Ice and Von Dutch jeans, and needles from Nelly and Avril Lavigne really transport you to a special era of pop culture. (Although the way «Senior Year» uses Mandy Moore’s hit «Candy» evokes one of the film’s funniest moments.) school popularity.
It’s been an obsessive search for the fun blonde Stephanie ever since she moved to the United States from Australia at the awkward age of 14. Following advice she receives from teen magazines (“Three pounds is the difference between sexy and obese,” one headline screams), she transforms, becomes a cheerleader captain, dates an insipid soccer player, and sets her sights on the ultimate goal. Goal: Become a prom queen.
“If they were this great in high school, imagine how great the rest of their lives would be,” Stephanie says enthusiastically, chasing down the street a pretty young married couple who were once prom king and queen. There’s a real grain of truth in the script of Andrew Knauer, Arthur Pielli, and Brandon Scott Jones: super-popular people tend to peak in high school and then stay in the city feeling like a big fish in a small pond.
But Stephanie’s dreams are shattered when a daring aerial stunt goes awry at a cheer rally. Is her rival and fellow cheerleader Tiffany to blame? Whatever the reason, Stephanie ends up in the hospital in a coma for 20 years. When she wakes up, it’s suddenly 2022 and she’s bewildered by iPhones and flat screen TVs. Her sweet widower father (Chris Parnell) kept her childhood bedroom intact all along (including the Clueless and P!nk posters). And although she is now 37 years old, her first impulse is to return to high school and fulfill her destiny of becoming a prom queen.