Before I get around to actually reviewing the 2009 made-for-Canadian-TV Degrassi Goes Hollywood, I should start out by admitting that if you’re not a Degrassi fanatic like I am, this review probably won’t make any sense. Then again, if you’re not a Degrassi fan, you probably wouldn’t be reading this review in the first place.
I should also address a rumor that is currently circulating around the TSL offices. Some of my fellow contributors seem to be under the impression that the only reason I announced that I would be reviewing 56 back to school films was so I would have an excuse to review the four Degrassi films. Nothing could be further from the truth! The reason I started this series of reviews was so that I’d have an excuse to review Andy Warhol’s Vinyl. The Degrassi films are just a nice side benefit.
Got it? Okay, let’s talk about Degrassi Goes Hollywood!
Degrassi Goes Hollywood premiered on August 14th, 2009 and it served as the finale of Degrassi‘s 8th season. As such, it also served as the conclusion for several long-running Degrassi plot lines, which I’ll get to in a minute. For the non-Degrassi fan, Degrassi Goes Hollywood is probably most interesting because it features Jason Mewes playing himself and coming across like a surprisingly normal human being.
To really understand Degrassi Goes Hollywood, you have to understand that Kevin Smith is a long-time and very outspoken fan of Degrassi. In fact, he even appeared, as himself, in seasons 4 and 5 of the show. In the world of Degrassi, Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes came to Canada so that they could film their latest film, Jay and Silent Bob Go Canadian, Eh? They filmed the majority of the film at Degrassi Community School and used several Degrassi students as extras. Kevin also served as the catalyst for the Joey/Caitlin break-up, which a lot of people have never forgiven him for. Myself, I would just point out that when Craig Manning stopped taking his medication and ended up living on the streets of Toronto, Kevin was the one who went on television and asked Craig to come home. So, Kevin wasn’t all bad!
(As I said, this review won’t make a damn bit of sense if you’ve never watched Degrassi.)
As Degrassi Goes Hollywood opens, we learn that Jason Mewes is about to make his directorial debut. His film, Mewesical High, is an autobiographical film about his youth in New Jersey and his love for a girl named Trixie. Jason wants to cast former Degrassi student Manny Santos (Cassie Steele) as his Trixie. However, the studio demands that Jason cast Paige Michalchuck (Lauren Collins) in the role. Believe it or not, Paige also went to Degrassi! She was in charge of the Spirit Squad and she and Manny once got into a memorable fight.
(Actually, Manny got into a lot of fights when she was a student at Degrassi. That was kind of her trademark.)
When she hears that Paige might be replaced in the film, Manny decides to go to California and fight for the role. Fortunately, her ex-boyfriend, Jay (Mike Lobel), just happens to have a school bus. So, he agrees to drive Manny to Hollywood. Accompanying them on the bus are the members of the Studz, one of Degrassi’s many bands. They want to convince Jason Mewes to use their music in the film.
Now, here’s where it is helpful to know your Degrassi history. The lead singer of Studz is Peter Stone (Jamie Johnston). When Peter first appeared on Degrassi, he was portrayed as being almost a sociopath. He even got Manny drunk and sent a topless video of her to everyone at the school. Manny spent two seasons hating on him but, oddly, in Degrassi Goes Hollywood, she has absolutely no trouble traveling from Canada to California with him. Degrassi is all about forgiveness.
Speaking of forgiveness, what about Jay!? In Degrassi Goes Hollywood, Jay is pretty much the hero of the film, the guy who convinces Manny to never give up on her dreams. That’s quite a change from how Jay was portrayed when he was first introduced in season 3. When Jay was first introduced, he was the local hoodlum who was always breaking into candy machines and who ordered his friends to steal everything from the school’s DVR to Mr. Simpson’s new laptop. Jay was subsequently kicked out of school after he pulled a prank that led to a school shooting. (If you’re wondering why Drake was in a wheelchair during his final few seasons on Degrassi, Jay was indirectly responsible.) Jay was then at the center of an outbreak of gonorrhea and subsequently helped to turn another character into a drug dealer. And, let’s not forget the time that he and Spinner nearly burned down the school…
Fortunately, Jay was played by Mike Lobel and he always played the role with an appealing sense of humor. You never got the feeling that Jay was truly evil. Instead, he was just a little hyperactive. Somehow, it seems appropriate that he would go from being the most evil character on the series to being one of its most memorable anti-heroes. He gets a lot of good scenes in Degrassi Goes Hollywood. He and Cassie Steele made for a fun couple.
Speaking of couples, the best thing about Degrassi Goes Hollywood is that, after four long seasons of heartbreak, it finally gives some closure to the Craig/Ellie storyline. Craig Manning (Jake Epstein) was the bipolar musical genius who left school to become a big star and who subsequently returned for two episodes, in which we discovered that he had developed a cocaine addiction. (The scene where he gets a nosebleed while performing is pure Degrassi nightmare fuel.) Ellie (Stacey Farber) was one of my favorite characters on Degrassi, mostly because we both have red hair and like to dress in black. Sadly, Ellie spent four seasons crushing on Craig, just to watch as he dated Manny, Ashley, and then Manny again.
In Degrassi Goes Hollywood, Ellie and Marco (Adamo Ruggero) are invited to Hollywood to hang out with Paige. And while Ellie tries to pretend that everything’s okay at home (despite the fact that her father is in the hospital, suffering from PTSD as a result of serving in Afghanistan), she just happens to go for a walk and randomly runs into Craig! And though they have their usual issues, the movie ends with Craig and Ellie finally kissing as something more than just friends.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Degrassi without drama. Paige and Marco fight over Paige’s diva attitude. Ellie gets drunk and walks out into the ocean. The school bus gets stolen while Jay, Manny, and Studz are visiting a redneck bar. It’s dangerous for Canadians in California!
But what’s important is that it all works out in the end and, even if it’s never specifically stated, I imagine that Mewesical High won all sorts of Oscars. Listen, if you’re a Degrassi fan, you’ll enjoy Degrassi Goes Hollywood. And, if you’re not into Degrassi, you probably stopped reading this review a while ago.