How many of you have ever attended your high school reunion? Was it a ten year reunion? A twenty year reunion? A fifty year reunion?!? Did it live up to your expectations? I guess my point is that I did NOT go to my ten year high school reunion a couple (more like seven) years ago. Some of you may be asking yourself, “What is he talking about, I thought this was a MOVIE blog?” and you are completely right. Trust me, I am getting there.
So, I didn’t go to my reunion and the reason is simply because it was going to be nothing like movies have made them out to be. Mine was not even being held at my high school, instead it was at a bar in town. That is certainly not what Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion (1997) or Grosse Pointe Blank (1997) had told me a reunion would be like. I think I would have totally gone if it had been in my old high school’s gym and we were going to be dancing the night away to the spectacular sounds of the 90s. This all leads me to my main point, how many times have we been led astray by the fictions of film on our expectations? I like to call it Saved by the Bell syndrome.
What is Saved by the Bell syndrome you ask? As you may have guessed, it’s when your expectations on a life event are skewed by a work of fiction, such as how Saved by the Bell (which was NBC teen program that aired during Saturday morning cartoons during my youth) made us believe what high school would be like in comparison to what it actually was like. Now don’t get me wrong, I know fiction from reality, but I am talking about the little things and events that seem like they would be real. Such as having a prom in the actual school itself… in this area that is a complete fiction. Saved by the Bell made us (us being kids growing up in the late 80s through the mid 90s) think that we would have an awesome themed dance every other week and that maybe, just maybe, we would create a workout video (well, maybe not that last example). Needless to say, Saved by the Bell is not the only culprit.
Another fantastic example of a film creating Saved by the Bell syndrome, is the 1998 classic, Can’t Hardly Wait. If there is one movie that both sums up my senior year in high school as well as points out the foibles of the teen romantic comedy in its attempts at realistic fiction, Can’t Hardly Wait is that movie.
I saw Can’t Hardly Wait at the old AMC Lynnhaven 8 theater (the one that used to be outside the mall, but without 24 screens) with a couple friends from school and the girl I ended up going to prom with. For those of you that have not seen it, please do; it is a great slice of 90s nostalgia and is actually very heartfelt. The story follows your prototypical teen protagonist as he pines over his high school crush during the end of his senior year, played with grace by Ethan Embry and Jennifer Love Hewitt. Of course, the love of his life is the most popular girl in school and does not even know he exists. This is but one of many interwoven story-lines that all come together during the last huge party of their high school careers.
It really is a great movie, and I highly recommend it. It captures the John Hughes feel of his indelible films from the 80s, like Breakfast Club (1985), Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) and She’s Having a Baby (1988) and transposes that to the late 90s. Needless to say, the year of our graduation, we did hold one of the biggest parties of our high school career, called a “SuperParty,” and it was huge. Just not as huge or eventful as that of Can’t Hardly Wait. The guy doesn’t always get the girl either, or vice versa. Sometimes Mike Dexter (Peter Facinelli) wins. That is life.
This all leads back to my thoughts on what a high school reunion would be like. My image for my ten year high school reunion is based solely on Grosse Pointe Blank which again, if one of my all-time favorite movies… ever. The concept is amazing, how does a contract killer deal with having to go to his ten year high school reunion. In this case, we learn you can and consequently cannot go home again.
Martin Blank (played by John Cusack) is our hero assassin, and he is returning to Grosse Pointe, Michigan to help come to terms with some choice he has made in his life, including leaving the love of his formative years (portrayed by Minnie Driver) behind on prom night to join the military. Past and present collide in his hometown during his actual high school reunion. Which takes place IN THE ACTUAL HIGH SCHOOL! Is that too much to ask for out of real life? I just wanted to see all of the people I went to high school with in their natural environment! Anyway…
This movie combines witty comedy, fairly solid action, a charming love story and one of THE BEST soundtracks of all time. I firmly expected my actual high school reunion to be more like this movie. I wanted to be able to walk through the hallways of my youth and see faces long since forgotten. I really wanted to slow dance to Save Tonight with my wife and close the evening out with the 90s classic, Closing Time. Instead I got Saved by the Bell syndrome.
So tell me, do you have any symptoms of the syndrome? We have staff standing by.