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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Teenage Rivalry
by Robert Ford

Australian soap opera actresses seem to have no problem launching successful pop careers, but fail miserably when they take on the cut-throat world of movie acting. Even the world-famous Kylie Minogue has thus far failed to make the transition from pop icon to silver screen star (anybody remember her in Street Fighter with Jean-Claude Van Damme? Didn’t think so). The latest Aussie soap star-turned-singer-turned-movie star wannabe is tabloid favourite Delta Goodrem. The ethereally beautiful Miss Goodrem may look like an A-list movie goddess, but does she have the acting chops to match? Hating Alison Ashley is not the film to answer that question. It’s just not the kind of material that really stretches an actor’s abilities.

Set in an Australian high school, Hating Alison Ashley is a light-hearted but very funny teen comedy. Erika (Saskia Burmeister) comes from the wrong side of the tracks and has an embarrassingly weird family, but at school she’s the star pupil of class 9C. Everything changes when newcomer Alison (Delta Goodrem) joins the class and usurps the top spot from Erika. Alison seems to have the perfect life -- she’s clever, beautiful and lives in a mansion on the hill. It’s enough to drive Erika mad with envy, and -- you guessed it -- she ends up hating Alison Ashley. The situation comes to a head at summer camp, when Alison steals Erika’s lead role in the class play.

This being a movie aimed at teenagers, there is of course a moral to the story. Erika learns that although Alison may seem to have it all, appearances can be deceptive. And through Alison she learns to truly appreciate what she has. This lesson may be a cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason.

The moral of this story definitely emerges as secondary to the film’s main purpose, which involves making its audience howl with laughter. As a comedy, Hating Alison Ashley works wonderfully. The laughs come thick and fast as all the usual high school stereotypes are lampooned. The comedy value and downright weirdness of high school and camp gets  milked for all it’s worth.

Based on the best-selling novel by Robin Klein, a perennial favourite with young Australians, Hating Alison Ashley is  almost guaranteed to be a hit, simply because the book has so many fans. Even for non-fans, it can still be enjoyed as light, fluffy entertainment. But anyone hoping to gauge whether Delta Goodrem’s acting skills match up to her profile, will just have to wait for her sophomore effort.

(Released by Hoyts Distribution and rated "PG." Opens in Australia on March 17, 2005.)

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