BEFORE I FALL 6 out of 10; Directed by Ry Russo-Young; Written by Maria Maggenti; Based on the book by Lauren Oliver; Starring Zoey Deutch, Halston Sage, Medalion Rahimi and Cynthy Wu; Rated PG-13 for mature thematic content involving drinking, sexuality, bullying, some violent images, and language-all involving teens; Running time 99 minutes; In wide release March 3, 2017.

Sometimes it’s completely obvious to see how other films have influenced a movie, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Just because something isn’t completely and wholly unique doesn’t mean that it can’t tell an engaging and interesting story. The problem comes when it moves beyond imitation to ripping off the original idea, and that is the biggest problem with Before I Fall.

Samantha Kingston (Zoey Deutch) is a popular high school senior who seems to have everything going for her. She’s dating the most popular guy at school, has a group of close girlfriends who are inseparable and is set to leave school soon and make the most of her life. Things take a turn, however, when she and her friends get in a car crash on the way home from a party. She wakes in bed thinking it was all a bad dream, but as the day goes on, an overwhelming sense of déjà vu takes over, and when the day starts anew the very next morning, she realizes she’s stuck in an infinite time loop. As she tries to make sense of it all and figure out how to escape, she begins to take a closer look at her life and realizes that perhaps she hasn’t been living to the best of her ability and sets out to right past wrongs and make the most of her predicament.

This is essentially the love child between Mean Girls and Groundhog’s Day. While that might seem a bit simplistic, it fully captures the spirit and plot of the film. In fact, if I had one major complaint, it’s that it so slavishly follows the plot structure of Groundhog’s Day that anyone who has seen that will be able to predict every moment, down to the second, of what will happen in Before I Fall.

Sam spending the first few days thinking that what’s happening can’t be real? Check. Sam trying to be selfish and live how she wants because the future doesn’t matter? Check. Sam being brutally honest with everyone around her and alienating her friends and family? Check. Sam eventually realizing she needs to be a better person and learn from this experience? You betcha. Throw in the cattiness of mean-spirited teenagers along with their drama, and that’s the movie, folks!

Seriously, even someone who rarely sees movies will be able to see where all the twists and turns are taking them because it telegraphs where it’s going from the very first 15 minutes. Which is a shame because there is a lot to like here.

Zoey Deutch and her friends (Halston Sage, Medalion Rahimi and Cynthy Wu) are all quite believable as a clique, and their relationship dynamics are fun and interesting to watch. Especially Zoey as she begins to grow throughout the events that are taking place and matures into a strong and able young woman. It’s also refreshing to see a strong female character who goes against the grain and is willing to do whatever it takes to stand up for what is right and not just to get the boy or because society expects it from her.

If only there was more of that and less filler and predictable nonsense to get in the way of the character development.

However, I recognize that I’m not the target audience, and the large number of high school and young college students at the screening really seemed to enjoy it and relate to the story. So, while this isn’t something I can really recommend, it does play well to a younger audience, and people in that demographic will enjoy this a lot more than those in mine. So my best advice is to drop the kids off at this movie and sneak off to see Logan without them so that everyone can have a good time.

6 out of 10

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Tags: mean girls , teen drama , before i fall , groundhog's day , high school