The wickedly acerbic high school comedy “Do Revenge” is too witty for its own good by at least half and overbearingly, practically nauseatingly extra, but writer-director Jennifer Kaytin Robinson (“Someone Great”) is able to turn those potential negatives into superpowers.
Yes, it’s like “Clueless,” “Mean Girls,” “Jawbreaker,” “10 Things I Hate About You” and just about every other teen comedy from the ’90s onward, cranked to 50 and jacked up on steroids, but Robinson knows that and acknowledges it from the jump. The result is a catty, whip-smart good time that dares you to keep up with it, if you can.
“Riverdale’s” Camila Mendes stars as Drea Torres, a classic popular girl-type at her Miami high school, with a twist: unlike her peers, she’s poor and has worked her tail off throughout school in order to achieve her dream of going to Yale. Her dreams disappear in an instant after a nude video of her is leaked to the student body by her smarmy boyfriend, Max (Austin Abrams), and she wants to make him pay.
Meanwhile, Eleanor (Maya Hawke) has payback on her mind as well: she was outed, shamed and demonized by a classmate, Carissa (Ava Capri), and she wants to make her pay for what she did. These two unlikely allies team up and hatch a plan to take on each others’ rivals and, yep, do revenge. “Is ‘do revenge’ even correct grammar?” Eleanor asks, just one of many indicators of how self-aware the machine has become.
The pair sets off on their mission, referencing all sorts of teen movies and cliches along the way, noting the ways they do or don’t hold up to Gen Z’s standards. (Yes, makeovers are problematic, but we still get the requisite makeover montage.) Today’s racial, sexual, social and gender politics are acknowledged and winked at — Max starts a self-congratulating student association called the CIS Hetero Men Championing Female Identifying Students League — and the soundtrack is full of alt- and pop-rock gems from the ’90s moving forward.
Edgy plot points weave throughout the narrative (Cher and Dionne definitely never took shrooms in “Clueless,” but they didn’t grow up in the age of “Euphoria,” either), which is loosely structured after Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a Train.” Twists pile up on top of each other in the final act, and “Do Revenge” sort of moves like a series, and one wonders how it would have worked as a six or eight episode Netflix saga. But this is a movie that knows the buttons it’s pushing, and it mashes them hard, and repeatedly. In short, “Revenge” is sweet.
Rating: TV-MA (Language, drug use, sexuality, all involving teens)
Running time: 1:58
How to watch: Netflix