- Director: Alex Hardcastle
- Writers: Andrew Knauer, Arthur Pielli and Brandon Scott Jones
- Starring: Rebel Wilson, Mary Holland, Sam Richardson, Zoe Chao, Angourie Rice, Jade Bender, Chris Parnell, Alicia Silverstone
There are two ways to play Senior Year, a comedy about a cheerleader who slips into a coma before her senior prom for 20 years and wants to pick back up where she left off. One is the bonkers 21 Jump Street way in which everything is heightened and anything can happen, sending up the same genre it’s clearly pulling from. The other method is to use the insane setup as a way to explore a character who had the best years of their lives taken from them, in a saccharine, rom-com way. Consider it a coming-of-age comedy in which the central character has technically already come of age. Unfortunately for first-time director Alex Hardcastle, he never fully commits to either type of film.
Rebel Wilson, who plays Stephanie, the cheerleader in question, has long been in search of a leading role worthy of her specific comedic talents. And Hardcastle has populated the film with plenty of reliable presences, from Mary Holland as her childhood best friend and the current-day principal of her alma mater, to Sam Richardson as the romantic lead, to Zoe Chao (who starred with Richardson in another post-high school project this year) as her high school rival and the mother of the most popular girl in school, plus Chris Parnell and Alicia Silverstone in bit parts. But the script, written by Andrew Knauer, Arthur Pielli, and Brandon Scott Jones, often plays to the lowest common denominator, crafting jokes about wokeness and cultural sensitivity that would feel like cheap potshots if they were played on a network late-night show.
When the film opens, Stephanie – played by Angourie Rice in the younger version – is the outcast, new to America and desperately hoping to fit in. She remakes herself as a cheerleader whose ultimate goal is to be crowned prom queen – with no real attainable career or life goals after that to speak of. After a cheerleading stunt gone wrong, she wakes up in 2022 and sets out to win the prize she coveted. The only problem is that Holland’s Martha has done away with the title, in the interest of promoting fairness. Not to mention the cheerleading squad has been neutered not only in its popularity and effectiveness but in its sex appeal, instead cheering about social justice issues that don’t have any place on the football field.
Naturally, the second half of the film involves Stephanie as she rises the ranks of the school’s social hierarchy, taking the Bad News Bears-esque cheerleading squad and re-invigorating them. Equal time is also devoted to her romance with Seth, who always pined for her and now regards her as the one who got away. The entirety of Senior Year is littered with these standard-issue plot developments, which is mostly fine because the cast is so amiable and works together nicely, but Hardcastle never subverts those cliches or does anything interesting with them.
Though, if you’re expecting a Netflix film dumped in May with zero fanfare to do something new, somebody lied to you along the way. Senior Year is ultimately an inoffensive Friday night watch, propelled by game performances who clearly had fun making it – as evidenced by the blooper clips playing over the end-credits. Netflix has produced better comedies, and Netflix has produced better romantic comedies (high school-based and otherwise), but there’s a kind of zany charm that ultimately keeps Senior Year afloat. After all, where else can you find a shot-for-shot recreation of Britney Spears’ “Crazy” music video?
Senior Year will be released on Netflix on May 13, 2022.