There was "Heathers," and then, last year, there was everything from "Cruel Intentions" to "Jawbreaker," but Christina Peters' lame attempt to catch the latest teen-bitches-from-hell wave with "The Smokers" makes even recent genre rip-offs look comparatively like masterworks. Perpetually unsure whether it's telling a morality tale, a cautionary fable, a black comedy or just slumming it as an exploiter, sloppily produced high school adventure displays poor grasp of nearly every salient point of filmmaking, from character interest to visual texture. Latter was seriously harmed at Santa Barbara fest, where a digital projection format made paltry-looking pic look even worse. "The Smokers" has about as much market upside as cigarette-making corporations.

There was “Heathers,” and then, last year, there was everything from “Cruel Intentions” to “Jawbreaker,” but Christina Peters’ lame attempt to catch the latest teen-bitches-from-hell wave with “The Smokers” makes even recent genre rip-offs look comparatively like masterworks. Perpetually unsure whether it’s telling a morality tale, a cautionary fable, a black comedy or just slumming it as an exploiter, sloppily produced high school adventure displays poor grasp of nearly every salient point of filmmaking, from character interest to visual texture. Latter was seriously harmed at Santa Barbara fest, where a digital projection format made paltry-looking pic look even worse. “The Smokers” has about as much market upside as cigarette-making corporations.

Trio of bad chicks at Wisconsin-based Lindenhurst Academy (Dominique Swain’s Jefferson, Busy Phillipps’ Karen, Keri Lynn Pratt’s Lisa) start with petty mischief, but partly inspired by Jefferson’s really naughty pot-smoking younger sis Lincoln (Thora Birch, several universes away from “American Beauty”), they escalate trouble by using a gun to “rape” guys who mistreat them on dates. Swain delivers deadly flat voiceover narration, but the inane staging and character behavior are even more fatal, and in turn harm the cause of truly compelling young feminist cinema.

The Smokers

Production

An Intl. Prod. Co. production. Produced by Nicholas Loeb. Executive producers , Quincy Jones, Michael Niemtzow, Ted Roesgen. Directed, written by Christina Peters. Camera (color), J.B. Lechtinger; editor, Elias Chalhub; music, Lawrence Gingold; production designer, Sandra Elkind; art director, Kelly Beaudry; costume designer, Oren Schepher; associate producer, Alex Hernandez. Reviewed at Santa Barbara Film Festival, March 5, 2000. Running time: 97 MIN.

With

With: Dominique Swain, Busy Phillipps, Keri Lynn Pratt, Nicholas Loeb, Oliver Hudson, Thora Birch.
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