September 16, 2014

The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story [TV Movie] (2014)

Young people who looked little like the people they are supposedly portraying


It's hard to know in which direction to go with this because there's just so much to discuss. The casting, the acting, Zach's eyebrows - even the story itself. So, sticking with the school theme, I'm going to give out some grades for the major points of this "movie."

Story: D-

This movie being based off the book Dustin Diamond "wrote," it's obviously not going to be as credible as a more scholarly work like say, VH1's Behind the Music. (Side rant: don't people have more pride than to put their name on something they didn't actually write?) And slapping the word "unauthorized" on the title really shouldn't give you license to just say whatever you want, true or not. But overall, it leads viewers on a nostalgic trip through one of the best shows of my childhood.

Watching the casting process was interesting, as it's always fun to see other now-famous people who were considered for parts. And there were little moments of "oh I remember that!", like when the show brought on Tori, the worst character in all five seasons. But like any one-sided account, it also induces a lot of eye rolls, especially toward the "sympathetic" character of Screech. Look, I know being a dork and being excluded must really suck, but I've never understood people who said they didn't have any friends in high school. Really? Not one? Not everyone can be popular, but if you don't have a single friend, you've got to wonder if it's not just the people around you who are responsible....

But even disregarding its supreme (unintentional) campiness and acting (which I will discuss later), this movie is really just bad. Each scene is very short and it's a choppy sequence from one to the next, which then requires obvious dialogue and interactions to compensate for the fact that the characters have not been fully developed. It's about as professionally done as a video Zach and Slater would make for a school class.

Casting: C

I imagine it would be really difficult to find younger versions of people who already exist, but considering the fact that acting ability was not a constraint on casting, I think Lifetime could have done a bit better. I mean, Lindsay Lohan as Elizabeth Taylor was more believable than the kid they picked to play Mark-Paul Gosselaar (aka Zach Morris). Some of the most hilarious items on this summary of the movie had to do with Zach (notably #5, #23, and #75).

The girl who played Lark Voorhies (aka Lisa Turtle) was at least cute, but perhaps only identifiable as her character because she was the only black person. Like, at all. Even including the extras. You'd think a show that created not one, but two interracial couples (errr... make that three, now that the world knows Mark-Paul is part Asian) would have been a little more cognizant of the apparently rich diversity of Bayside High. And all the mullets and cut-off tanks in the world couldn't fool anyone into thinking the kid who played Mario Lopez (aka AC Slater) looked anything like him. Even with him constantly licking his lips like he was LL Cool J and repeatedly calling Mark-Paul "preppy."

I appreciated the casting director finding a freakishly tall girl to play Elizabeth Berkley and not pretending Jessie Spano didn't awkwardly tower over AC Slater during slow dances, but a spiral perm does not a transformation make. And while the kid who played Dustin Diamond (aka Screech) actually looked like a dork in real life, he was *cringe* actually cuter than the real Dustin. By quite a bit. So that made it less believable that everyone was mean to him because of course, people are only mean to really ugly people!

Really, the only actor who actually looked (and sounded) like the person they were supposed to portray was Mr. Belding. Then again, Dennis Haskins recently had a death hoax, so maybe I had just forgotten what he actually looked like.

Acting: C-

This is actually a higher grade than I anticipated going into it. Sure, fake Tiffani-Amber was basically a cardboard cutout that stood there making pouty faces the whole time, but isn't that sort of an accurate representation of Kelly Kapowski? But where was the hands-tucked-in-the-front-pockets stance?!? (Side note: anyone who watched the real Saved by the Bell knows Lisa got the short end of the stick and should have been paired up with Zach. Which, according to Dustin, was happening in real life anyway.)

Fake Dustin was whiny and annoying, yet somehow managed to portray himself as cooler than he probably was in real life. Fake Lark was annoyingly passive, which made her "feud" with Kelly even more unbelievable. And while I believe Mario might be a bit of a skeeze in real life, fake Mario exuded none of the charm that would make millions of girls across the country somehow get excited about a wrestler. Oh, and despite being the star of the entire show, the acting by fake Mark-Paul was so stony and forgettable I wouldn't have remembered he even existed if not for those eyebrows! (Think Tom Selleck's moustache splitting in two, then attacking fake Zach's face.)

Bringing the entire class' average up was, of course, the curve-wrecker Jessie Spano. As I mentioned above, I wasn't blown away by the casting, but her portrayal of everyone's favorite Saved by the Bell episode, "Jessie is addicted to caffeine pills," made the entire movie worth watching.

"I'm so excited! I'm so excited! I'm so... scared!"

Final word: Indulgent fan fiction for nostalgic 90's kids.

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