by Don Jaucian
Tween Academy: Class of 2012 (2011)
D: Mark Reyes
C: Bea Binene, Joshua Dionisio, Jake Vargas, Barbie Fortaleza, Elmo Magalona, Joyce Ching, Kristoffer Martin, Derrick Monasterio, Louise delos Reyes, Alden Richards, Sam Pinto
The key to enjoying Mark Reyes’s Tween Academy is to abandon any expectations that this will be a high school film that has learned from the example of Jerrold Tarog’s Senior Year. Reyes’s film is commercial tripe, but it’s not necessarily bad. Tween Academy is of course GMA’s attempt to catapult the careers of its tween stars who are obviously unknowns compared with ABS-CBN’s talents. These kids are not bad: their acting is passable enough to make the film an enjoyable portrait of the lives of a generation thriving in high-speed communication and trend-conscious ideals.
Tween Academy lives in a world of High School 2.0, the kind that you see in magazines and first-world television series. The film obviously tries to be our own version of Glee and maybe a hint of Gossip Girl with all its criss-cross of relationships and obsession in Making it Big. Popularity seems to be the big issue here, a major problem when you’re still looking to establish your identity amid a sea of hormonal teenagers whose minds operate with the same ideals as every one else’s. But there’s also the issue of crushes, which everyone hopes to transform into something life-changing, the kind of relationship that you’d want to tell your kids (hopefully not only a few years after high school) and gush about the thrill of first loves, kisses, dates, and heartbreaks.
Unfortunately, Tween Academy is too busy following the lives of its numerous characters, some of which you wouldn’t care about. Details unfold like rare gems in a thick forest. It stumbles when it tries to be relevant, tackling generational gaps, tenuous relationships, and high school strata. Story lines are never fully fleshed out, hampered by the numerous celebrity cameos (Tessa Prieto! Tim Yap! Dingdong Dantes! Marian Rivera!) and product placements (SMDC! Digitel! Golden Spoon!). The film doesn’t aspire to be a great high school flick. It just wants to sell and give the fans of these kids reasons to shriek and love them even more.
Despite its confusion with its own middle-class setting and supposed age group, Tween Academy fares better than a lot of Hollywood’s brainless outings. It has a heart, really, and its unintentionally hilarious moments make it seem decent enough to make you think that you didn’t spend 100 minutes of your life trying to figure out who’s who and who’s dating who. Because high school is supposed to be confusing, but it exists in its own organized chaos.