Legacy (2008) / Comedy-Mystery
aka Pretty Little Devils
MPAA Rated: R for sexual content, crude humor and language
Running time: 90 min
Cast: Haylie Duff, Madeline Zima, Monica Lo, Brett Claywell, Kate Albrecht, Laura Ashley Innes, Donnell Rawlings, Bret Ernst, Margo Harshman, Jane Sibbett, Tom Green, Kelly Frye
Director: Irving Rothberg
Screenplay: Samantha Silver, Jason Dudek
Review published August 6, 2008
Haylie Duff (Napoleon Dynamite, Material Girls) stars (wearing a terrible blonde wig) as sorority big sister Lana Stevens, whose main goal is to weed out the finest and freshest pledges to Omega Kappa (aka OK) so that she has fun, cute Barbie dolls to match their image. Her favorite of all of the potential new sisters is Emily (Innes), who is cute as a button, but her grades aren't good enough to make it. There is one loophole -- Emily can get in if a legacy (a descendant of a previous OK member) doesn't try to join. Alas, there is a legacy pledging this year, a pudgy and geeky eyesore named Katie (Albrecht, "Entourage"), daughter to the biggest contributor to the OK sorority. Lana has no choice but to let her in, tarnishing their perfect sorority image, but she has a sure-fire plan -- she can make Katie's experience so miserable that she will not want to join.
Legacy is another entry in the Heathers clone mini-genre, also following in the Mean Girls footsteps by having an attractive but evil clique do some fairly nasty things to those that aren't worthy enough to belong. The twist here is that, rather than try to give Katie an OK makeover and get her to conform to their way of life, they take the offensive approach of antagonizing and humiliating her so that she will voluntarily choose to stay away from them at all costs.
The worst aspect of Legacy is that, rather than laugh at the girls' shenanigans, we feel nothing but anger at seeing completely vapid bimbos mistreat someone who means no harm. It plays as a comedy, and yet it doesn't firmly establish itself as dark enough in its tone early on to make for a black comedy. Humiliation consists of making fun of her weight and appearance. While Katie is overweight, she doesn't seem to be anywhere close to the label of "very, very fat," which is what all of the other characters remark when talking about her. I could buy that the sorority sisters would say it to her face to make her feel bad, but when other characters not part of the posse say the same things, it makes you wonder if they cast the part right.
Just when you think you can't feel any worse about how horrible the sorority sisters mistreat Katie, she ends up murdered. It's a plot twist that is not only needless, but also goes against every comedic grain there is (and if you're unfortunate enough to have seen the 2001 film New Best Friend, this will be a most unwelcome deja vu experience). Black comedies should have us laughing when the villains commit their heinous acts, not want to vomit. The second half of the film is a tedious whodunnit, as the three main sorority sisters are interrogated by the cops about the events of the evening. It's supposed to be funny that the girls tell a harmless account of the events of the evening, juxtaposed with flashbacks of just how cruel they were.
If you think the movie is god-awful crapola by this point, it finally hits the comedic abyss when Tom Green (Bob the Butler, Stealing Harvard) rears his ugly head as the police sergeant in charge. His method of provoking laughs consists of pulling out his gun whenever he is displeased and pointing it at his subordinates, threatening them because they aren't achieving results, At one point, he points the gun at his own head, threatening suicide for witnessing such incompetence. I silently hoped that no one would encourage him to stop.
The rest of the film is little more than blatant (and agonizingly predictable) attempts at titillation -- lesbian kisses, Jell-O wrestling, voyeuristic sex tapes, scantily-clad sorority girls -- and yet, none of it approaches being remotely sexy. That it's co-written by a woman from her original story is a real quandary, as this plays much more like a male Frat Boy fantasy of what goes on in sorority houses than the rather mundane reality. First-time screenwriters Samantha Silver and Jason Dudek serve up the clichéd script, which hasn't the comedic juice to come to life, and it doesn't help that debut director Irving Rothberg kills its chances by utterly failing to give the proper tone for a dark comedy before it turns black.
Without laughs and without any interest in who the murderer is, I'd say that Legacy proves to be a worthless movie just from a quality standpoint, made infinitely worse by being offensive and unnecessarily crude. There is no nudity in the film, but there are a handful of simulated sex scenes (with clothes on), including one where the Madeline Zima (A Cinderella Story, "Californication") character gives a male partygoer a hand job, then cruelly smears the gooey aftermath into Katie's mouth. Where is the humor or mystery, or even purpose, in witnessing that? Whatever the reason, one thing is for sure -- it doesn't come close to matching the bitter aftertaste of the abhorrent experience of watching Legacy.
©2008 Vince Leo