“LOL” is DOA, a shapeless and charmless teen-skewing trifle stocked with trendy slanguage and social-network gimcracks that make it seem like something four years past its expiration date. Indeed, the comedy was adapted by French filmmaker Lisa Azuelos from her own “LOL: Laughing Out Loud,” a 2008 romp that proved tres populaire with Gallic auds. But something must have gotten lost in translation: The Americanized version plays like a mash-up of three or four segments of an ABC Family sitcom, albeit one with rather more relaxed attitudes about teen sex and pot-smoking. Homevid platforms beckon.
That Lionsgate gave this star vehicle such a half-hearted theatrical dump May 4 speaks volumes about the dimmed wattage of toplined Miley Cyrus, whose charisma-free performance may in turn serve as a cautionary example for teen pop phenoms seeking to break out into “mature” screen roles.
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Cyrus aggressively overplays Lola, a Chicago high-schooler who spends most of her waking hours hanging and texting with her best buddies, and pondering whether her relationship with good friend Kyle (Douglas Booth) should evolve into something (OMG!) more intimate.
Occasionally, Lola also interacts with her oft-frazzled mom, Anne (Demi Moore), who rightly views her daughter as quite a handful, but who also has her own romantic complications to sort out. Like, should she continue accepting booty calls from her unreliable ex-husband (Thomas Jane), or pursue a new romance with a hunky narcotics detective (Jay Hernandez)?
The detective, it should be noted, endears himself to Anne by remaining amiably nonjudgmental while she and a few longtime friends have what appears to be their weekly pot party in her kitchen. (Among the guests: Gina Gershon and Fisher Stevens, who seem to have wandered in from another, funnier movie.) Yet when Anne discovers, while “accidentally” reading her daughter’s diary, that Lola may be toking and fornicating, she’s absolutely furious. Because, hey, she’s a mom.
As noted above, “LOL” comes across as a highlights reel excerpting episodes from a season of a sitcom; it’s all too easy to imagine the “Anne Reads Lola’s Diary” segment airing one week after the “very special episode” detailing a class trip to France. The central and sometimes contentious mother-daughter relationship is passably credible, but mainly because Moore does most of the emotional heavy lifting.
Azuelos and co-scripter Kamir Ainouz generously sprinkle complications into the mix — a break-up here, a father-son clash there, a student-teacher flirtation that goes nowhere — along with quirky supporting characters such as Anne’s hard-drinking mom (Marlo Thomas, looking like someone wearing a Marlo Thomas mask) and a jocular nerd (Adam Sevani) who lusts for Lola’s not-entirely uninterested BFF (Ashley Hinshaw). But it seems as though, somewhere around the 85-minute mark, someone told Azuelos to wrap it all up, quickly, and she responded with an inadvertently comical race to the finish line.
Periodically, the helmer slips something in that seems jarringly more risque (or, depending on your point of view, more sophisticated) than the norm for American-made zitpics: In one early scene, Anne and her younger daughter are bathing together when Lola casually walks into the bathroom and disrobes to take a shower, triggering a critical remark from her mom about her, ahem, grooming preferences. More often, however, “LOL” has all the zesty flavor of overchewed bubble gum.
Tech values are pro. Pic makes nice use of the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” in one scene, but overuses Twitter-style visuals elsewhere.