Crush has better jokes than charisma but still delivers a decent romance.
Published on May 11, 2022
Rating 3 /5
Coming-of-age teen comedies have certainly come a long way. Twenty years ago, it would be highly uncommon to see a teen sex comedy involving characters who were gay and bi-sexual, let alone had understanding parents. Times have changed to such a degree that it’s refreshing that the teenagers of today can have a more open and vibrant comedy that appeals to more than the old archetypes. That being said, Crush does more to showcase a sign of the times than ever really becoming a compelling romantic comedy, more notable for its jokes than its characters.
The premise is ripe for unique characters even if they’re given simplistic staging. The lead teen Paige Evans (Rowan Blanchard) is an aspiring artist with dreams of attending CalArts. She’s also a troublemaker who has a desire for graffiti. Her ways of stirring up the faculty nearly get her kicked out of high school until she makes a last-ditch effort to join the track team. She’s not much of a runner and is less inclined to join considering the snarky coach Murray (Aasif Mandvi) is dating her eccentric single mother, Angie (Megan Mullally). But when Paige takes a romantic interest in her fellow athlete AJ Campos (Auliʻi Cravalho), there’s suddenly an interest in wanting to train for the team.
The film proceeds with a lot of quirks. Paige has some charm but is more of a passing nature. Not much of her artistic side comes out and a lot of her teenage problems feel par for the course, even for a lesbian teen of the modern age. Her mom gets in some of the funnier lines for wanting to be progressive with a sex-positive household, leading to some absurdly awkward conversation about dental dams and mistaking erasers for vibrators. There’s also the sassy principal played by Michelle Buteau who serves as a passive-aggressive antagonist, snapping back at teachers and commenting on how they’re not paying her enough as she drinks in her office.
In terms of the romance, there are some decent developments with the central conflict being a love triangle. Paige is established as someone with a childhood crush on Isabella Ferreira, the sister of AJ. So when her romantic interests shift, there’s a question of finding different kinds of love as you grow older and explore more of your possibilities. There’s also a weirder relationship developed between Paige’s best friend Dillon (Tyler Alvarez) and his girlfriend Stacey (Teala Dunn). Both of them are running for student council and rather than feeling competitive, they’re more turned on by their political campaigns than acting as rivals. There’s perhaps some deeper commentary about an ineffective political system of two parties but this simple rom-com settles for them just having an odd attraction, where talk of politics gets them all hot and steamy.
Crush has better jokes than charisma but still delivers a decent romance. For being so telling of the times, it really says something that a ho-hum teen picture such as this can feature gay and bi characters without much rancor or discrimination that requires some profound speech of standing up to homophobes. As a casually comedic and sometimes heartfelt picture of growing up and falling in love, this picture manages to do so in a manner that mixes whimsy with cynicism. Though the overall flow feels scattered, the general energy is one of sweetness amid its snark, never coming off too much like an out-of-touch teenage romantic comedy.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.