by Nanette Burstein
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Run time: 100 mins. Aspect ratio: 1.85: 1. Originally released: 2008. Language: English. After chronicling the life of movie mogul Robert Evans, director Nanette Burstein (THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE) moves to a far more familiar subject matter with AMERICAN TEEN. For this documentary, Burstein followed five teens in tiny Warsaw, Indiana, as they finish up their senior year of high school: Jake, the socially awkward but sweet school nerd; Megan, the rich, scheming queen bee; Colin, the basketball star who desperately needs an athletic scholarship to attend college; Mitch, the all-American hunk all the girls want to date; and Hannah, the artsy outsider who can't wait to leave Warsaw and its citizens behind. Burstein captures a high school experience that lies somewhere between the MTV reality series LAGUNA BEACH and the John Hughes films of the 1980s. In fact, THE BREAKFAST CLUB is a logical jumping off point for the film's marketing campaign, and the theatrical poster smartly mimics the classic teen comedy. But AMERICAN TEEN succeeds on its own merits, thanks largely to plenty of hilarious moments and its universal, engaging subject matter. Though the film places each of the five central characters neatly into a category--geek, jock, rebel, heartthrob, and princess--each person seems entirely real. And even though their daily dramas--getting into their dream school, trying to find a prom date, and breaking up--might seem to matter less in hindsight, these are the real issues that teens face, and it's hard not to become a little nostalgic...or be very glad that those turbulent years are in the past.