Coming to theatres from director Salome Breziner and Indomitable Entertainment is a sweet comedy that finally gives us a look at THE SECRET LIVES OF DORKS.
This film tells the story of Payton (Gaelan Connell), a young man who is entering his senior year of high school. He is a professed comic book geek and dreamer. Along with that is a great love for cheerleader Carrie (Riley Voelkel) whose boyfriend is Clark (Beau Mirchoff) and would crush Payton if he found out.
Adding to his stress is his father Bronko (Jim Belushi) who wants his son to wrestle despite the fact that Payton abhors the idea. Dad looks to Mike Ditka of the Chicago Bears for parental guidance via video! When he’s not dealing with dad Payton is dealing with English teacher Ms. Stewart (Jennifer Tilly) who’s got a crush of her own.
What Payton doesn’t know is that Samantha (Vanessa Marano) has her own dream – and that is being his girlfriend. To get the dreamer to focus on someone else, Carrie has the idea to play matchmaker between Samantha and Payton.
As with most things high school – disaster and humiliation follow in his senior year!
FINAL WORD: Connell as Payton has the ‘nerd’ vibe down pat. He comes in super hero blazing with all the awkwardness that it takes for this role. Playing this love struck teen in the middle of the word angst imaginable, Connell embraces every moment of it. He learns what most high schoolers, nerd or not, learn – and that’s be careful who you think you love! There are moments I’m cringing for him and that’s a sign of a well-played role.
Marano as Samantha plays the cool, calm and collected young lady who is totally freaking out on the inside. It’s hard to be in love with someone who only has eyes for the cheerleader! Lenz as her Mother is hilariously quiet and Katt as her father has an awesome one liner that I won’t repeat. Of course the moment I saw Katt on screen I started having THE GREAT AMERICAN HERO flashbacks and singing, “believe it or not I’m walking on air”. Yea, I geeked out for a second.
Voelkel as Carrie plays the stereotypical blonde gorgeous girl who happens to be the cheerleader. Except this cheerleader is trying to find a way to stop the ‘dork’ from occularly stalking her. In the midst of her plans she gets the unexpected surprise from the most unexpected place.
Mirchoff as Clark plays the stereotypical good-looking jock that gets the dork to do his homework. Well, as in most high schools, not everyone is exactly what they seem and Clark is no exception.
Belushi is hilarious as Payton’s father and Mike Ditka obsessed wrestling coach. He wants so much for his son to be athletic and when the father-son relationship seems hopeless, Bronko turns to the only man that can help instead of seeing what’s right in front of him.
Tilly as Ms. Stewart is endearing and funny. Trying to get the attention of her own secret crush is turning into a full time job. Tilly is flirty and down right tenacious doing everything she can to say ‘hey, I’m right here!’ Well-done ma’m!
Other cast include: Mark Daugherty as Chester Summers, Tyler Steelman as Herbie, Seymour Cassell as the Principal, Andrea Bogart as Jessia, Kay Lenz as Mrs. Gibson, Daina Gozan as Anya and William Katt as Mr. Gibson.
TUBS OF POPCORN: I give THE SECRET LIVES OF DORKS three and a half tubs of popcorn out of five. First, let me say Mike Ditka rules! As a Chicagoan myself how could I say anything less? When he says, “use your man’s affinity for me and football to your advantage” and gets Ms. Stewart to repeat his sentences in that voice only Tilly can do.
The film is well done, the storyline although familiar still has a life of its own. There are many teen angst films going back as far as the 70’s if memory serves and some like THE BREAKFAST CLUB and WEIRD SCIENCE are at the top of my list. THE SECRET LIVES OF DORKS reminds me of those films and yet it’s approach is fresh and fun.
It is rare to find a film that isn’t swimming in special effects, ear damaging with swearing, underwear clad teens, gun play, car chases and any of the rest that are (as far as I’m concerned) distracters to a good story. This is the film that families can see together for some laughs and a little family ‘awwwww’ at the same time.
In the end – dorks are in right now!