In Mother Night Kurt Vonnegut warned, "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be." This is a theme, sort of, in the teen comedy movie Easy A.

The framework of Easy A is high school student Olive (Emma Stone) making a webcast about the truth of what happened with her reputation. Olive is smart, clever, attractive, and -- since the movie needs her to be an underdog -- unnoticed and an outcast. Not wanting to admit to her foul-mouthed friend Rhiannon (Alyson Michalka) that Olive spent the weekend alone getting hooked on the song "Pocket Full of Sunshine," Olive makes up a story about a fling with a college man who took her virginity. This is overheard by ultra-religious Marianne (Amanda Bynes), and before you can say "texting" the rumor is all over school.

Things get more complicated when Olive pretends to have a very public romp with closeted gay friend Brandon (Dan Byrd) so he'll stop getting harassed. Soon everyone wants to have a pretend fling with Olive (usually paying her with gift cards), Marianne's religious clique is trying to get her kicked out of school, and Olive decides to strike back by dressing risque and adding something inspired by The Scarlet Letter. Of course there's the cute boy Todd (Penn Badgley) who Olive may have a crush on.

I'm not sure what universe Easy A is set in, but it's certainly not this one. This universe has a high school where one person having sex becomes the talk of the entire school and the principal threatens a student with expulsion for saying a dirty word. That would be fine is Easy A were more amusing, but...

Easy A doesn't do anything particularly creative or amusing with its premise. Much like Ellen Page in Juno, Emma Stone is an always-cool character whose every utterance is clever and often dripping with sarcasm or irony, which becomes grating qickly; there's also no transformation from geek to beauty, so it's hard to buy her near-immediate change in social status. The movie talks about romatic '80s movie cliches -- and works them all in. Amanda Bynes has a thankless role as the one-dimensional woman (albeit of the first mean Christian clique since Saved). And while Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci are fun as Olive's free-spirited parents, the movie largely wasted Thomas Hayden Church, Lisa Kudrow, Fred Armisen and Malcolm McDowell in small roles.

Easy A is more about honesty than promiscuity, but it's neither inspired nor terribly funny. There are some decent moments here and there (like a painfully bad faked sex noises) but Easy A certainly doesn't earn an A.

Overall grade: C
Reviewed by James Lynch

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