Rebel Wilson's Netflix movie Senior Year review – a bland coming-of-age 'comedy'

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Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

Netflix's latest comedy Senior Year stars Rebel Wilson as Stephanie, a former high-school cheerleader captain who falls into a coma weeks before her prom. When she wakes up twenty years later, she decides to return to high school in order to reclaim her status and finally be crowned prom queen.

If it sounds familiar, you wouldn't be wrong. It's essentially Never Been Kissed, only backwards, ish. Wilson stars alongside the ever-charming Sam Richardson as Seth Novacelik, and perfectly uptight Mary Holland as Martha Reiser — her two best friends who try to help the adult Stephanie ease into her newfound grown-up life.

Throughout two hours of cliché 21st-century high school "humour", Senior Year fails to take off. Hampered by its own narrative framing, the movie isn't sure what it's trying to satirise: the entire high-school clique structure, our modern-day obsession with Instagrammable wokeness, or the idea that growing up somehow magically fixes all those things that were wrong in our teen years.

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

By trying to play into so many themes it lacks the specificity necessary to make it relatable (think about how precise films like Turning Red or Mid90s were, and how easy it was to apply those stories to one's own life). Instead, we watch Wilson do her best to stumble through a combination of gross-out, slapstick, and sometimes earnest comedy in order to reach the moment in which everything falls into place.

Nor is it punchy enough for the meanness to feel anything other than a poor facsimile of truth. Senior Year feels like a film that didn't want to annoy anybody by saying the wrong thing, so no one is likeable, nor detestable, nor even ...anything at all.

This is Us' Justin Hartley does a cameo turn as a vaguely creepy, self-identified DILF – and while we totally agree with the assessment, Hartley is easy on the eyes, he's not actually creepy enough to be offputting. If he were, people might have an actual feeling about the character.

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

The plot itself is neither here nor there, simply a new contrivance to tell a fish-out-of-water story. It is a film so obsessed with its own narrative device that it never stops to make the characters within it anything other than names to propel a plot.

Interestingly, Senior Year's Harding High is populated by empty facsimiles of what adults think high schoolers are like nowadays. Its adults are no better: woefully out of touch in a way that makes no sense – how does a 40-year-old man NOT know who Mr T is? The gag doesn't work! He is the same age as Rebel Wilson's grown-up Stephanie! They share the same cultural touchstones!

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

The bad jokes and copycat stereotypes aside, Senior Year is also as subtle a bag of bricks to the face. Bri, Stephanie's nemesis' daughter and current senior class Queen Bee, genuinely says: "the perfect online life means nothing when you're miserable in real life." (However, this does give us one of the solely genuinely funny moments thanks to Hartley's effortless comedic timing.)

The film feels like a mash-up of the infamous Steve Buscemi meme and the Spider-Man meme: totally oblivious self-awareness that goes absolutely nowhere. And, worst of all, isn't even funny.

Senior Year is now available to watch on Netflix

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