Teenage characters are back in fashion, but the latest teen movies don't necessarily focus on average adolescents with everyday problems. Two new arrivals, "Never Been Kissed" and "Go," represent the lighter and darker ends of the spectrum, respectively.
Never Been Kissed stars Drew Barrymore as a 25-year-old newspaper copy editor who gets a chance to jump-start her journalism career with an offbeat assignment: infiltrating the local high school for a first-person article on today's kids. She's delighted to tackle an undercover story that will show off her nose for news. But she's terrified at the idea of reliving her high-school years - a time when she was anything but the most popular kid in class.
The best things about "Never Been Kissed" are its colorful camera work and funny dialogue, although much of its humor is so youth-centered that older viewers may miss the point. Barrymore continues to grow into a versatile comic actress, and Leelee Sobieski and David Arquette are terrific as likable misfits. The picture is on shakier ground when it toys with sensitive issues - sexual attraction between teacher and student, for instance - without having much to say about them. Parents wanting to steer their youngsters to a clean teen movie should take its PG-13 rating seriously.
That warning goes triple for Go, which earns its R tag with a three-part story beginning when a teenage checkout clerk gets involved in a drug scam. From there the movie caroms from one sleazy situation to another, carrying cautionary messages - don't try this yourselves, kids! - yet wallowing in the cheesiness it displays. In all, "Go" is yet another spinoff of Quentin Tarantino's aptly named "Pulp Fiction." But while Tarantino himself has left that phase behind, these folks still have some growing up to do.
*'Never Been Kissed,'
rated PG-13, contains vulgar language and sexual innuendo. 'Go,' rated R, contains much sex, violence, nudity, and drug use.