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American Teen - documentary DVD / independently produced DVD review
AMERICAN TEEN Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) rating: 3 1/2 stars
Featuring: Hannah Bailey, Colin Clemens, Geoff Haase, Megan Krizmanich, Mitch Reinholt
Director: Nanette Burstein   Distributor: Paramount
DVD release: 21 December 2008   Runtime: 95 min. (1 disc)
Format: Color, Dolby, Widescreen
DVD Features: 16:9, Audio tracks (Dolby Digital 5.1 - English, Spanish), Subtitles (Englih, Spanish, French), Pop Quiz (cast interviews), Deleted scenes, Hannah Blogs, Character trailers

American Teen is a documentary filmed in a high school in Warsaw, Indiana in 2006. This is a mostly white, mostly Christian town, and the DVD features a variety of teens as they go through the year. The teens fit so much into clique-type molds that it sometimes seems to be a real-life Breakfast Club.

First, you have Hannah Bailey, who is very artsy and lives with her grandmother. She has a tendency to get depressed, and as her mother suffers from bipolar disorder, she fears she will eventually have it, too. Megan Krizmanich is the queen bee of the school-popular, smart, pretty, and one of the quintessential "mean girls" who many think get too much glory in the media already. Colin Clemens is the uber-popular basketball star, and Jake Tusing is the acne-covered shy band geek.

Some serious events occur in each of these teens' lives during the course of the year. Some of it does feel fake, or at least played up for the cameras, almost as if they thought they either wouldn't get into trouble or that their notoriety would help them to escape the consequences of their actions.

One thing made clear is that the angst and drama of high-school life never changes. It has always been there; all that changes is the way it comes out and is expressed. One example: a girl sends a topless picture of herself to a boy and it gets passed around via the Internet and cellphones all over school and town. Embarrassing photos have always been around - only the method of delivery has changed. It's both refreshing and depressing to see that as much as things have changed and as much progress has been made, things are still the same in high school.

American Teen is a movie that might be best viewed with teens and their parents together, as it could certainly open up dialogue about important issues from peer pressure to college to parental pressure to do well in sports. There are quite a few mature themes discussed, such as sex, drugs, and drinking, so it's definitely not for young teens. Overall, American Teen is a thought-provoking and insightful movie about life as a teenager, if just a bit over the top with drama. But isn't that what makes a teen a teen?
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reviewed by Melissa Parcel
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