BOOK REVIEW: Fast Times at Cine Mega Plex High by Matthew Vaughn
A look at Matthew Vaughn's collection of Bizarro film parodies.
In this collection of interconnected stories, movies are the center of the students’ lives at Cine Mega Plex High. All of them take nicknames from movies and instead of jocks, preps, and goths, the students divide themselves based on their favorite movie genres. The stories follow various students over a day in which everything seems to go wrong for the various students. Likewise, each of the stories is a parody of a well-known movie.
The first story, “Basic Human Anatomy,” is not a great start. It revolves around Eraserhead, a geeky “Cult” kid and his sister Dirty Dancing. They experience a Freaky Friday style body switch which they later find has also given them super strength and mind control respectively.
The story has interesting ideas, but suffers from awkward pacing and the worst writing of all the stories. Early in the story, the mother of Eraserhead and Dirty breaks up a fight between them saying, “I wish you two could change places, maybe you would treat each other with a little more respect.” Oh, well gee, I wonder what’s going to happen? It may be nitpicking to point out that piece of heavy-handed foreshadowing, but it sticks out especially bad given the awkward pacing. It took me a re-read to realize when exactly the body switch had happened relative in the time frame of the story. The length of the story makes the interactions between the body switched Eraserhead and Dirty and their friends feel crammed in before the climax of the story. This one would have benefited from being longer.
Things pick up in “Mary Poppins with Breasts and Tentacles Part 1.” A pair of Sci-Fi geeks accidentally summon a transsexual porn actress when one of them ejaculates on a TV. They soon discover that she’s more than she seems. This is a much better story, more tightly paced and far funnier. The biggest problem is that ending is too abrupt. The story does pick up again in a Part 2 later, but given that most of the other stories stand on their own, this one feels cut short.
My favorite story in the collection is “All in a Day.” This one is a science fiction parody of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Hot Shots fakes being sick so he can skip school. Before he has a chance to set off on his own day off, a UFO crashes into his home. The aliens take Hot Shots up in their ship to have a good time in space. This story is the one that uses the concept of the book the best. It’s fun to read, has great humor, and gets the “mood” of the kind of movies the book is affectionately parodying down perfectly.
“What’s Your Damage” is a parody of films like Heathers and Mean Girls. A Romance film girl, the alpha bitches of Cine Mega Plex High, is forced by one of the teachers to show a new girl around. She and her friends discover that the girl is an android. The Romance girls plot to use her to bully one of the Sci-Fi boys. This is an entertaining story, but it suffers from the same problem as “Mary Poppins…Part 1.” Though instead of feeling cut short, the story just sputters to a stop.
“Detention of the Damned” is a horror-comedy parody of the Breakfast Club. So much so, that’s it’s a bit on the nose that one of the characters is named Breakfast Club. Several of the kids from different genres are stuck in after school detention. To pass the time, a Horror kid by the name of Dawn of the Dead decides to summon a demon. But when the demon arrives, it turns out to be more out of control than Dead anticipated. While I didn’t like this one as much as “All in a Day,” it also uses the concept of Cine Mega Plex High to its potential just as well. This story is vulgar and over the top, but its hilarious as well.
The final story, “Mary Poppins with Breasts and Tentacles Part 2,” serves as an epilogue to the book where most of the characters from the previous stories come together. A Romance girl named American Beauty wants to throw a party while her parents are out of town. Her house, however, refuses to allow it unless AB convinces one of her friends, named Notebook, to have sex with him. Notebook doesn’t show up to the party, having died in “Detention of the Damned,” but the monster porn actress from Part 1 does, as well as Eraserhead still in his sister’s body.
This story wraps up the book well for the most part. It culminates in a ridiculous and fun to read battle between the monster porn actress and AB’s house. However, it ends the book on a forced romance between Eraserhead and one of his sister’s friends. While this romance was set up in the first story, it was a plot point that was dropped pretty quickly. Having it brought up again here didn’t work at all.