Based on Dyan Sheldon’s popular youth fiction, “Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen” emerges a strained showcase for up-and-comer Lindsay Lohan as a sophisticated Big Apple teen unhappily relocated to New Jersey. Minimally funny comedy feels like a Disney Channel pic that got boosted to theatrical after Lohan scored a hit opposite Jamie Lee Curtis in the “Freaky Friday” remake. Nonetheless, it should have a lock on the 7- to 12-year-old female demo for a couple weekends before finding longer tube/tape shelf life.
Re-christening herself from plain old Mary in protest, Lola (Lohan) is dragged from New York City to deepest N.J. (Canadian shoot may explain the distinct lack of Joisey accents) by divorced mom Karen (Glenne Headly). Lola instantly bonds with wallflowerish Ella (Allison Pill) when they discover they have a mutual obsession with the (fictive) rock band Sidarthur. Lola instantly chafes against Dellwood High’s resident queen rich-bee-atch, Carla (Megan Fox). Their rivalry worsens when Lola wins the part in the school play Carla coveted — as Eliza Doolittle in a modernized, musical “Pygmalion.”
Barely noticing she’s acquired cute boyfriend Sam (Eli Marienthal), Lola directs her energy to scoring tickets to the Sidarthur farewell concert after it’s announced that the group is breaking up. She and Ella end up “rescuing” dead-drunk lead singer Stu (Adam Garcia) when he strays from the after-party and passes out. (Once he sobers up, Lola’s pouting disapproval alone is enough to put the abashed star on the wagon.) The girls triumphantly accompany him back in, but nasty Carla later makes all schoolmates think Lola fibbed about the whole experience.
This makes Lola cry. But she gets it together in time for the “Eliza Rocks!” opening night, which fans of “Stayin’ Alive’s” notorious “Satan’s Alley” or “The Simpsons'” “Planet of the Apes”/”Streetcar Named Desire” musicalizations might want to check out. (Dellwood High’s drama budget appear Broadway-scaled, though one shudders to imagine the next morning’s New York Times review.)
Stu turns up to humiliate Carla by proving he’s ever-so-platonically-fond of Lola and Ella. (A high school movie customized for preteens, “Confessions” imagines that when two 15-year-old girls are ushered into a rock star’s boudoir, nothing happens beyond their getting to jump on his bed and try on his clothes.) A destroyed Carla accidentally backs into a fountain –and as the coup de grace, Lola offers her hand in friendship (a maneuver not unlike Lohan’s recent off-screen “I like her, I don’t know why she doesn’t like me!” announcements re: rival teen queen Hillary Duff.)
“Confessions” has a thin moral, poorly built up, about how even little white lies are, like, lies. But story tilt and riot of consumerist imagery suggest the most important things in life are peer one-upmanship and having an infinite clothing allowance. Lohan & Co. may set a new record here in costume changes per reel — and Disney label or no, some can only be described as repping fashion’s ever-relevant (on certain avenues) Hootchie Mama tradition.
After her able turn in “Friday,” Lohan is just OK. In the hands of Reese Witherspoon or Kirsten Dunst a couple years back, Lola might have been a comic delight, but here she comes off rather more irksome than intended. It doesn’t help that distinctions between her and villain Carla blur: Both are self-consumed, attention-needy junior fashion plates. A nearly unrecognizable Carol Kane leads support cast, trying a bit too hard with poor material as the wacky drama teacher.
Part-animated fantasy segs, colorful production design (even alley garbage bags are pastel-rainbow hued), and a shiny teen-pop soundtrack create more clutter than stylistic consistency in Welsh helmer Sara Sugerman’s (“Very Annie Marie”) first Hollywood feature. Packaging is pro, even if a small screen air stubbornly lingers.