The only fair way to approach “After We Collided,” the sexed-up sequel to the romance novel adaptation “After,” is on its own terms with its intended audience in mind.
If you’ve any attention to Netflix’s selection of self-produced or acquired teen romances, you know they’ve got the data to back up what common sense and memories of your own teens tells you.
Teenagers want to watch movies about affluent, beautiful people their age hooking up, running through the Kama Sutra in parties, in the shower, in cars, parks or offices. And maybe these exotic creatures — often with no visible means of support — after all that sweat and coitus, find true love.
Fighting that voyeuristic impulse is like trying to hold back the tide. Not. Gonna. Happen.
So as tempting as it is to recycle my review for “After” (“Much ado about absolutely nothing.”), let’s look in on these lovelies and see where they stand — or sit, lie down or mount — in the running count of that famous Indian book of love I cited above.
Tessa (Josephine Langford) has a paid internship with a publishing house this time, a college freshman/sophomore who is such a perky go-getter that the boss drags her to a meeting/club outing with a Chinese financier who might make Vance Publishing a bigger deal than it is.
She’s still mad at classmate/ex-lover Hardin, the willowy Brit covered in tats played by Hero Fiennes Tiffin. He cheated on her, basically on a dare. And as much as he pines and texts and voice-over narrates “a story you’ve heard before,” she’s not having him back.
This cute metrosexual accountant (Dylan Sprouse) might have her eye, now.
But a drunk dial after too many shots of “Sex on the Beach” reignites the flame. And showing up and trying to collect her things from “our place” gives his visiting Brit-mom (Louise Lombard) the wrong idea, so she pretends they’re still together to spare Hardin’s “long talk” with Mummy about the breakup.
And it’s on like Donkey Kong all over again, no matter how “toxic” the hard-drinking, haunted and stalkery Hardin is, no matter how much Tessa wants to dazzle in this fantasy world internship.
Novelist Anna Todd, who had a hand in the script, knows better than to let reality intrude much here. The libidinous, foul-mouthed and forward coeds (Inanna Sarkis dazzles as their queen, Molly) may mimic the current fashion in that subculture.
But hot-tempered Hardin keeps shoving around others like he’s hard and maybe weighs fifty pounds more than the beanpole he is. Tessa’s every problem is solved with a wave of a magic money wand.
The entire nonsensical plot is cut-and-pasted together just to make her mad again and prompt him to plead for make-up sex again. Having them independent of means takes away the challenge of teen sex — procuring a safe, comfortable and sexy place for it to take place. So director Roger Kumble and the screenwriters compensate by having lots of it, mostly teased, with just a bit of nudity and ever so much bumping and grinding.
Sure, it’s pervy to note this in a review, unless you accept that I’m just talking about the movie’s sole focus.
The moony magic of other romance novels for this YA crowd, the high stakes of starting a revolt against sci-fi fascism or overcoming “He’s a vampire and I’m not” are dispensed with for makeovers, dressing up, hitting the soundstage-sized club and going “commander” (she’s too drunk to remember “commando”).
Tessa’s mother, played by former teen icon Selma Blair, is limited to a single scene this time. That leaves the movie ripe for stealing, which bad girl Sarkis pretty much does. “Molly” is a provocateur, temptress and fly in the ointment — or whatever — of Tessa and Hardin’s happiness.
And she’s the better half of the best scene, the only good scene, in this empty-headed confection of copulation. It’s a cat fight, and of course it’s in the third act.
So, worse than the first? A little bit.
MPA Rating: R for sexual content, language throughout and some drug material
Cast: Josephine Langford, Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Dylan Sprouse, Louise Lombard, Selma Blair
Credits: Directed by Roger Kumble, script by Anna Todd and Maria Celaya, based on the Anna Todd novel. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:45