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The Outcasts (2017)
Monarch Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 5/16/2017
All Ratings out of
Review by Sydny Long, Posted on 5/15/2017
High school is more than just an institution of primary education: it is a cornerstone of popular culture. There is no shortage of films dealing with the feudal social hierarchies and hormonal antics endemic to that particular phase of one's life. The only problem is that most of these films fail to capture the modern high school, which is less rigidly segregated and more assimilated (not to say that there aren't cliques, but no one has ever said the word "queen bee" in real life). While some movies come close (like the refreshingly unpolished school in Napoleon Dynamite and the rampant conservatism present in Donnie Darko), most adhere to the age-old clichés of bespectacled nerds and blonde queen bees. It is easy to understand why--real high school isn't very exciting, with most drama limited to Twitter feuds and the occasional parking lot brawl--but one can't help but wonder why today's filmmakers still insist on sticking to these tired tropes when modern high school students are much more interested in retro flicks like The Breakfast Club and Clueless, which have more realistic settings and less pigeonholed characters. Unfortunately, The Outcasts embraces cliché, but can a hearty dose of modernism save it from being yet another throw-away high school flick?
The Outcasts refers to unpopular best friends Mindy (Eden Sher), a brilliant senior dead-set on attending MIT, and Jodi (Victoria Justice), an abrasive musician with an affinity for piccolo and Tina Fey. They have been suffering under the rule of "queen bee" Whitney North (Claudia Lee) for years, which Mindy tries to put an end to civilly. Whitney retaliates by broadcasting an embarrassing video of Jodi at a party, prompting Mindy and Jodi to recruit fellow outcasts in an attempt to overthrow Whitney and her league of popular followers. With the help of the insanely driven Virginia Doe (Ashley Rickards), the innocent Girl Scout Claire Connors (Katie Chang), and the intimidating anarchist Sugar Morey (Jazmyn Richardson), the girls manage to bring the outcasts to power. However, Jodi realizes the error of their ways after falling for popular student Dave (Avan Jogia) and noticing that even Whitney may not be as horrible as she appears. After catching wind of a major scheme engineered by Mindy to humiliate students at prom, Jodi must find a way to set aside her resentment and stop Mindy before their friendship can be completely broken by the regime change.
The concept of nerds wanting to overthrow the more popular students is far from original, but here it feels slightly less trite due to the diversity of the outcasts. Mindy is definitely a clichéd nerd--seriously, no one actually has a Periodic Table bedspread or that many calculus-themed tee-shirts--but her aspirations to actually attend an institution that matches her level of intellect is refreshing, as most movies fail to have "the nerd" utilize their genius realistically. Jodi's obsession with Tina Fey and Adam Scott would hardly make her an outcast in modern society (and Victoria Justice is far too pretty to be cast as a social reject, no matter how clunky her glasses are), but she genuinely feels like a teenager. The rest of the outcasts are amusing and generally realistic, especially Claire, a lesbian, and Sugar, a social activist.
However original most of the outcasts are, the rest of the movie is crushingly hackneyed. From the queen bee, who has absolutely no redeeming qualities, to the brooding love interest to the high school that looks more like a private university, the film is just too out of touch with reality to be more than marginally entertaining. The plot proceeds without so much as a single twist (aside from a moment where Jodi's relationship with Dave almost becomes incestuous, which is never really resolved and is probably the only twist this movie really needs) and makes no effort to innovate or surprise. This is deeply disappointing given the potential of the outcasts to be strong characters and carry a somewhat predictable story along, a la Mean Girls.
While The Outcasts is far from inventive or intriguing, there are a few moments of clarity that prove there was at least some energy expended on making this movie stand out in some regard. Most of the dialogue is relatively wooden or cribbed from better films, but the occasional joke will land (especially a remark about the correlation between Veronica Mars and sexuality). Although it feels like a few scenes could be cut--Victoria Justice gets a song, of course--the film is blissfully short and breezy considering its tendency to over-explain the minutiae, and even has a humorous epilogue. Which is stolen from Can't Hardly Wait, but beggars can't be choosers when it comes to adolescent fare. Compared to recent flops like The Duff (which was painfully, agonizingly misguided) and Before I Fall, The Outcasts is a sweet, low-budget flick that sticks to the basic formula without stirring the pot too much. Sure, its sense of realism is insanely warped and, sure, there is no such thing as a fantasy club, but when it comes to making adolescent films, there are certainly worst things you could do.
The Outcasts features a casts which are long-since too old for high school on DVD courtesy of Monarch Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is OK, but it is somewhat soft at times. For a DVD, the depth is good. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. (Be aware, the 2-channel track is the default and the 5.1 track must be chosen.) The stereo and surround effects are somewhat subtle, but the hallway scenes do provides some layers for sounds coming from off-screen. The music sounds fine and doesn't overpower the dialogue.
The lone extra feature on The Outcasts DVD is a TRAILER for the film.
Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long