Among its pack of shrill, pretty nothings, Hollywood could use more Emma Stones: throaty, geeky comedians reminiscent of a young, self-deprecating Tom Hanks. Putting her and Anna Faris together in The House Bunny made for almost too much of a good thing. So consider it a crushing blow that Stone's first proper star vehicle, a promising high-school update of The Scarlet Letter, pitches her gifts way below the mark. Mean Girls is another obvious forebear: Stone's surly Olive, accidentally confused for the class slut and reaping the strange benefits of coolness, might have worked nicely for Lindsay Lohan in a non-train-wreck universe.
But the script, credited to one Bert V. Royal, seems to have been run through an out-of-control sass machine (seriously, it'll make you appreciate Diablo Cody's tact), and plot developments involving a judgmental Holy Roller (Bynes), a closeted gossip (Dan Byrd) and a wry boyfriend-to-be (Gossip Girl's Badgley) feel forced. Don't be embarrassed if you'd rather stay in Olive's kitchen, where her dream team of parents---the effortless Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci---offer up supportive witticisms and cook breakfast. Given these superb genes, you can't help but wonder why Olive doesn't just stay at home, work on her college applications and leave the sub--John Hughes melodramatics to a lesser Ringwald.
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