Combustible Celluloid
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With: Mia Kirshner, Meredith Monroe, Rachel True, Dominique Swain, Taye Diggs, Scott Bairstow, Glynnis O'Connor, Joanna Canton, Eric Michael Cole, Oliver Hudson, Dean James
Written by: Victoria Strouse
Directed by: Zoe Clarke-Williams
MPAA Rating: R for strong sexuality, language and drug use
Running Time: 91
Date: 04/12/2002

New Best Friend (2002)

1 Star (out of 4)

With Friends Like These...

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

New Best Friend might have been better shown on late-night cable, except for the fact that these characters discreetly hide their body parts from each other (and us) when having sex. In other words, the movie has very little to offer besides unintentional laughs.

Basically a fifth-rate retread of All About Eve, New Best Friend begins when a lower-class college student named Alicia (Mia Kirshner) gets paired up on a sociology class project with the richest, best-looking blond hottie in school, a girl named Hadley (Meredith Monroe).

Alicia, who pinches pennies and desperately clings to her scholarship, becomes easily swept away by the fast, easy life of the rich and beautiful. Hadley and her two friends, Sidney (Dominique Swain) and Julianne (Rachel True), give Alicia a makeover, casting off her granny sweaters in favor of spaghetti strap tank tops. Not surprisingly, Alicia was already beautiful and just didn't realize it! (And despite being low on cash, Alicia suddenly owns a whole new wardrobe!)

Alicia latches on to Hadley and begins systematically picking away at her life, just like Eve does to Margo in All About Eve. All this takes place in flashback. As the story begins, Alicia has overdosed on cocaine and hangs on by a thread in a hospital bed. The local sheriff Artie (Taye Diggs) thinks that something suspicious is going on and begins to investigate the three friends, despite objections from his superior.

I doubt I've ever seen more hackneyed, ineffective police work in a movie. Poor sheriff Artie can only dig up clues when he gets lucky, as when he lights Julianne's cigarette with a match and notices the name of a club on the matchbook cover. (If Julianne is rich, why doesn't she own a lighter?) Artie also checks out Alicia and Hadley's school video project, which has them placing poor kids in a rich kids' school and observing their behavior. As if this metaphor isn't obvious enough, the filmmakers have Artie explain it to us -- "Oh, I get it," he begins. Duh.

Artie finds that Alicia overdosed on pure cocaine, not the junk that the local lowlife dealer sells. The dealer, by the way, advertises his product to anyone who calls on his cellphone, and Artie can just walk right into his place of business and find drugs spread out everywhere. (The final elusive clue as to where the pure drugs came from comes late in the movie and is absolutely preposterous.)

I could continue picking through the holes in this so-called mystery, but I'd run out of room. The one thing I can say about New Best Friend is that it's unintentionally hilarious: Laugh as Alicia gazes at the boy of her dreams (Hadley's boyfriend, of course) and he walks by her in slow motion! Scream as director Zoe Clarke-Williams uses cheesy optical effects to illustrate an acid trip! Howl as Sheriff Artie questions a male suspect who insists on taking a shower during his interrogation! Chortle at the gratuitous lesbian love scenes (with no nudity)! I can't honestly recommend that anyone pay for this garbage, but when it hits video or cable it might be fun to have on in the background during a party. But then again, it might not.

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