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“Twelve,” i.e. “Poor Little Rich Kids, Waanh-Waaaaanh”

“Twelve,” i.e. “Poor Little Rich Kids, Waanh-Waaaaanh” (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.

Directed by Joel Schumacher (“Batman and Robin,” “The Lost Boys”), “Twelve” is unquestionably the funniest film at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival; if only it had been made with that intention. “Twelve”‘s ham-handed ineptitude is part of the joke — on Schumacher, on audiences and on any distributor brave or foolish enough to pick it up in an attempt to turn this sow’s ear into a camp classic. Based on the novel by Nick McDonell, “Twelve” follows a group of poor little rich kids on Manhattan’s Upper East Side as they deal and/or do drugs in an effort to fill the emotional voids in their privileged lives. It is not merely that, in the age of “Gossip Girl” (which shares actor Chace Crawford with “Twelve”), the wicked behavior of pretty boys and girls is fairly played out; this stuff was milked dry decades ago by better writers like Bret Easton Ellis (“The Rules of Attraction”) and Jay McInerney (“Bright Lights, Big City”) and in better films. Lowering the age of the protagonists and upping the depravity of the conduct is not ripping the veil off of a hidden world; it’s skeevy pandering, a ‘How low can you go?’ exercise in attention-getting.

Crawford plays White Mike, a familiar literary figure — the sad drug dealer who doesn’t use, wandering the streets of Manhattan with a coat full of weed, a heavy heart and immaculately tousled hair. We first meet White Mike as our gravelly, omniscient narrator (Kiefer Sutherland) tells us exactly what White Mike is thinking and feeling in the wake of his mother’s death. Our narrator will do so with every character who crosses our path — the hottest girl in school, the sensitive mama’s boy, the ‘roided-out rage case and even Molly (Emma Roberts), the true love of White Mike’s life. But White Mike can’t talk to Molly, since he’s a drug dealer, and she comes from a better world than that; we know this because at one point we see her calling White Mike sitting among falling autumnal leaves in a blue gingham dress.

01242010_Twelve4.jpgMuch of the plot of “Twelve” involves a fictional new street drug — called, yes, “Twelve,” which is apparently instantaneously addictive and a lot of fun; Schumacher shows the drug’s pernicious effects in a scene where Jessica (Emily Meade) sprawls out in a fur coat and lingerie while her childhood collection of teddy bears exhorts her to go on a killing spree. I am not making this up, nor could I. As events culminate in a big blowout party that ends in tragedy, the cumulative effect is like a mix of “Elephant” and “Can’t Hardly Wait,” as Claude (Billy Magnussen) opens fire on the crowd at the birthday bash queen bee Sara (Esti Ginzburg) has flattered and seduced Claude’s mama’s boy brother Chris (Rory Culkin) into hosting while his parents are away.

Schumacher’s ambitions and pretentions are in a breakneck race to the bottom here. Occasionally, for moments of even deeper portent, we’ll see characters and a few stark props recreate past events against a blinding white background, suggesting Schumacher has at least heard of Bertolt Brecht, or maybe someone described “Dogville” to him once somewhere.

01242010_Twelve5.jpgSchumacher, at 70, is kidding himself if he thinks he has any attachment to or understanding of the lives of real teens, and screenwriter Jordan Melamed’s adaptation results in a final product that feels less like a film than a book-on-tape played over a well-shot sparkling wine commercial, as pretty things prance and cavort while the narrator’s gravelly, all-knowing tones tell us of the sadness and doom they face. It’s good to have it confirmed that Schumacher is incapable of making any film work regardless of scope, scale, genre or intent; from big-budget blockbusters to small indies, horror films to heartwarming dramas, he’s failed in every conceivable arena. “Twelve” is one of those Sundance flops so full and complete that it’s sure to be the stuff of legend; the only thing that made my laughter stop was contemplating which actual film didn’t get into the Festival when Schumacher’s tired, wired, “Requiem for a Gossip Girl,” been-there-done-that high-gloss phony fantasy of truly bad behavior and truly great haircuts could be undeservedly elevated, literally and figuratively, by screening it at Sundance.

“Twelve” does not yet have U.S. distribution.

[Photos: “Twelve,” Gaumont/Original Media/Radar Pictures, 2010]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

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Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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