Ben Travers here, your one and only source into the scandalous lives of Manhattan's whiny, spoiled brats who don't know when to stop.
TwelveDirector: Joel Schumacher
Cast: Chace Crawford, Emma Roberts, Curtis Jackson, Rory Culkin
Length: 93 minutes
Studio: Gaumont, Hannover House, Radar Pictures, and Original Media
Distributor: Hannover House
MPAA Rating: R for strong drug content, alcohol abuse, language, sexual material, brief nudity, and some violence – all involving teens
Release Date: 2010-12-28
There’s a reason Joel Schumacher’s latest lasted only two weeks in limited release. It’s terrible. There’s no way around it. It’s not fun. It’s not well-acted. It’s horribly put together. There’s very little good to be found in it at all. So instead of asking you to sort through a lengthy review detailing every flaw, I thought we could play a little timesaving game. See how much you can read before finding irrefutable evidence not to see this movie. If you make it to the end, perhaps you’re the one person meant to see Twelve. I doubt it.
12 Reasons Why Twelve Sucks
Reason #1: The number 12 keeps popping up in various and strange ways throughout the film, and I don’t know why. Yes, it’s the name of the “hot” new drug, but why it’s been named after a seemingly random number is never explained. Is it a combination of 12 other drugs? A user describes the sensation during its use as a mixture of a few other drugs, but that’s as close as we get to a substantial reason. Maybe the book explains it better, but more on that later.
There also seems to be about 12 characters featured in the film. Well, there’s more than that, but one could make an argument there are 12 featured roles. White Mike, Chris, Hunter, Sara Ludlow, Lionel, Gabby, Claude, Jessica, Molly, Andrew, NaNa, and Sean are probably the “main” characters, but the movie is so all over the place it’s hard to keep track of who is actually most important, if any.
There’s at least one storyline per part so there’s probably 12 of those, too. Throw in (approximately) 12 clichés, (at least) 12 poor performances, and the $12 a few poor folks spent on seeing this in theaters or buying the DVD and you’ve got a few 12s too many.
Reason #2: Chace Crawford. It’s not that he’s hard to watch (for any reason), but it is an odd bit of casting. If you know who he is, you watch Gossip Girl. If you watch Gossip Girl, you will be constantly distracted by the similarities between the world of Twelve and that of the best show on The CW. When White Mike is first introduced walking the streets of Manhattan with his trench coat and hoodie, it’s hard not to picture Nate Archibald slumming it, like he happens to do in Gossip Girl.
White Mike and Nate share a few other commonalities. Both inhabit wealthy worlds they can’t afford on their own. Both have a smirking best friend with daddy issues. Both are mainly loners. Though I can see how Crawford (or his agent) could make an argument for his casting with these same reasons, it doesn’t work out too well here. Not a fatal flaw by any means, but one that could have easily been avoided.
Reason #3: The rest of the cast is hard to watch (for all implied meanings). Esti Ginzburg, as the supposedly irresistable Sara Ludlow, is the best example, though not by much. Every movement she makes is timid. Her walk is timid. Her talk is timid. Her fake seductions are timid, and even her personal revelations are timid. Her face is permanently contorted into the slightest of smiles, with a touch of pout to match.
On the other side of the spectrum, Billy Magnussen overdoes every action by about ten levels of emotion. As the ‘roided-out, over-medicated Claude, Magnussen is more manic than Tom Cruise at that age. His decision to play it to the extreme might work if Claude didn’t keep inexplicably popping up. He has too much screen time for a simple character (how many stories do we need about Ridilin-infused trust fund babies?) and his usual screenmate, Rory Culkin as brother Chris, does nothing to help him by playing his character as a slightly sad 2 x 4.
One wouldn’t think Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson would have as rough a time as he does playing Lionel, a violent drug-dealer working in some rough neighborhoods. He basically plays a slightly more sinister version of himself, which he’s actually done before in Get Rich or Die Tryin’! Somehow, he forgot how to act since 2005. Damn does he make it look difficult. The rest of the no name cast all run into individual faux pas – some their own fault, some (including “Fitty”) because…
Reason #4: Joel Freaking Schumacher is a talentless hack. OK. That was unnecessarily harsh. He’s not talentless. He just does not know how to make a good movie. I’m not sure he knows what one looks, feels, or sounds like. What do you really expect from the man behind Batman & Robin, 8MM, Bad Company, The Phantom of the Opera, and The Number 23? He tries to go all artsy fartsy on us with a few scenes taking place in front of a bright white backdrop, but those are too fake to be pretentious, let alone affecting.
Reason #5: That brings up another problem with Twelve. Schumacher is so determined to make an ultra-serious film about… well, that's something that he forgets to tell us. White Mike is as close as we come to a protagonist, but how much can we really root for a drug dealer, even one with a dead mom? Outside of his very personal journey, all we’re shown are spoiled kids so bored they create problems for themselves. There are no real victims here, and thus, no real pain.
Reason #6: Who is that stupid kid in the glasses? Why does he keep popping up with his plain-faced friend, spouting inane gibberish and vague insults before departing after 30 seconds of meaningless screen time? He and his pal annoy White Mike, their peers, and the viewers. More importantly – why are we expected to care when one of the duo faces serious trauma late in the film?
Reason #7: It’s not as good as Cyrus. Did you know that was out on DVD? Have you watched it yet? Go watch that instead. You’ll be much happier, both with your choice and your general mood post-picture.
Reason #8: From what I can tell based from a quick Internet search, the book the movie is based on (also titled Twelve) is actually pretty good. The New York Times and Hunter S. Thompson speak highly of it and its author, Nick McDonell, on the back cover. Without reading it, I can tell you with a fair degree of certainty the movie is not faithful or comparable in quality. Give yourself a break – read the book.
Reason #9: If you don’t know where the movie is heading after 20-minutes, this is your first movie or you are unconscious. I’ve already mentioned how cliché-ridden this script is, but bits and pieces form whole segments of recycled scenes lay about like heaps of litter one must constantly trip over. Gossip Girl actually does a better, more realistic job capturing the trials and tribulations of upper class kids suffering from parental neglect. Twelve is a lazy, shoddy adaptation designed and produced for reasons unbeknownst to me.
Reason #10: Did I already mention the kid in the glasses? I did. Oh well. His performance is so torturous he deserves a double billing. Ugh.
Reason #11: One good thing before summing up: the movie is short. It doesn’t really feel short, but 93-minutes doesn’t take up too much of your day. Don’t watch it though! That’s not a good enough reason to blow through your life like that.
Reason #12: Finally, there are no extras with the DVD. OK, well, maybe that’s another good thing. At least, it’s good for me. I didn’t have to watch them.
There they are. I still implore you to go watch another movie. Perhaps Cyrus. Or The Expendables. Or Gossip Girl! Just trust me on this one.
You know you love me.