Saturday, May 10, 2014

Avalon High (live action movie), via Netflix

Avalon High is a mix of fantasy and romance. It's based on a book by Meg Cabot, which I have yet to read. I think I might have read one of the OEL manga volumes based on the book, but I can't remember a thing about it.

I knew before I started watching this that it would probably not be the best thing ever. Everyone in this movie is a stereotype, and the dialogue is kind of awful (The hot jock actually says this at one point, and it's not supposed to be dorky: “Listen. Hear the wind in the trees. It's...like music.”). Other than a few twists near the end, though, I'd consider this one of those “so bad it's almost good” kind of movies.

The basic story is this: Allie's used to being the new girl – she moves around a lot, because of her parents' work. This time, though, they've moved somewhere and plan to be there for three whole years. Allie is thrilled at the thought of finally being able to join and properly take part in the track team. She meets Will, a hot jock, while out running, and it seems like romance might be in her future as well.

Or not. It turns out Will already has a girlfriend, Jennifer. Allie tries to ignore her feelings while still being friends with Will. She finds another friend in the prickly, socially awkward Miles. She and Miles are paired together for a class project on the Order of the Bear, a topic which Allie's Arthurian scholar parents are only too happy to tell her about. It turns out that King Arthur has been prophesied to return, very soon, and the details point to Will being the reincarnation of King Arthur. This wouldn't be a problem, except that Mordred has also been reincarnated and is working to destroy Arthur/Will.

Like I said, everyone was a stereotype. Miles was the nerd who was picked on by bullies, Marco was the snarling bully, Will was the football player feeling pressured by others' expectations and his own need for a scholarship, and Jennifer was his pretty, cheating cheerleader girlfriend. Britt Robertson (Allie) and Gregg Sulkin (Will) had zero chemistry together, and I had problems remembering that Will was supposed to be the hot jock. On the plus side, Britt Robertson and Joey Pollari (Miles) played off each other well and were much more believable as friends than Robertson and Sulkin were as a potential couple.

Despite the cheesiness and predictability, I was actually kind of enjoying the movie, up until the twists near the end (which, according to the film's Wikipedia page, were invented for the movie and did not come from the original book). Those twists take all the previous Arthurian legend setup and blow it to bits, and then make no attempt to explain how the new pieces fit together. Warning: I'm including major spoilers from this point on.

For a good chunk of the movie, Will is assumed to be the reincarnation of King Arthur. Lance is Lancelot, Jennifer is Guinevere, Miles is Merlin, and Marco is Mordred. I'd have been fine with the twist involving Marco, but the revelation that it was Allie, not Will, who was the reincarnation of King Arthur was too much for me, and no, it's not because Arthur was a man.

The entire story framework was there. Will was the beloved leader of his football team, with everyone's hopes on his shoulders. Jennifer fulfilled the Guinevere role by cheating on Will with Lance, Will's best friend and one of his “knights.” So, who's who after several of the big roles have been switched around? Allie barely even took notice of Jennifer beyond recognizing her as Will's girlfriend, so it would be odd if Jennifer were Guinevere to Allie's Arthur. The flashbacks show both Allie and Will still as their same genders, so, if we assume that they're gender-bent King Arthur and Guinevere, does that mean Jennifer is Lancelot? And does that girl Miles/Merlin have a crush on somehow fit into the legend and, if so, who was she? Why did she even exist? From the sounds of things, the way the original book did things made a lot more sense.

All in all, this is one of those that would be great to watch as part of a group. It doesn't require a lot of concentration, and the dialogue and special effects are worth a few laughs. I do think, however, that it would have been a better movie overall if it had just embraced its predictability and kept all the characters in their initially assigned Arthurian roles.

Additional Comments:

As a librarian and book lover, I have to say this: the way Allie's parents handled their supposedly old and rare Order of the Boar book was atrocious. For the record, you do not hold a fragile book one-handed while the front cover is open and unsupported – that's practically asking for the spine to break.

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