The Standoff is teen comedy about a local auto dealer that holds a contest for 16 to 19 year-olds to win a new car. There’s a catch though and as the selected contestants try to make it to the end, old rivalries turn to romance.
At the local high school, the class elections are on and for president it’s down to two candidates. First there’s Farrell Bennett (Ryan McCartan), a tall, handsome popular guy with a dopey sidekick and a Sharpie, for which he vandalizes all the posters for Amy Roberts (Olivia Holt), the blonde, brown-eyed beauty who naturally can’t stand him as much as he despises her. They’ve been at each other since an elementary school spelling bee (do you know how to spell antidisestablishmentarianism?). Of course, we know already where that’s going to end up. It’s what everyone is talking about until, what’s this? A contest?
Over at Big Jim’s Auto Depot, the rules for winning a brand new car are pretty simple. If you’re a teenager over sixteen, enter to participate and if selected, all you need to do is stand with your hand on the car and don’t let go. Last person standing wins. Naturally, lots enter but it comes down to eight, a group of hyper-obvious stereotypes from teen YouTube stars, geek mathematicians, extreme sports warriors, cocky jocks, and . . . of course, Farrell. But then, when one of the contestants refuses to leave his video game in order to compete, in comes Amy, conveniently picked as the final player. So now with everyone with a hand on the car (a sleek Volvo S60), they are stuck together and the learning begins.
Directed by Ilyssa Goodman, The Standoff brings together most of the standard elements in the clean teen comedy genre and pokes fun at a few of them along the way, well aware of who their audience is and how the media-obsessed, pop-culture-driven world they live in can be as vapid as it seems. And yet, there is no bitterness to it, even while they paint those in the film who have become celebrities for the niche they fallen into–some by choice and some by accident–in broad strokes. Playing it to extremes of course, the satire is blunt and focused on familiar memes and viral hits while tacking on a lot of baser subplots and gags that will surely score with the targeted viewer. Gastric distress jokes aside, there are a few sharp observations that find there mark. I won’t lie. I laughed on more than one occasion. And I am not a teen. But I was once.
Where The Standoff succeeds most though is its script and excellent casting. Typically, generic, stock characters are par the course in this genre, but here, there is a surprising richness to most of these players, and a sweetness in how they are presented. Sure, it has its morals to preach with the ubiquitous “don’t change for anyone” mantra at its core, but there is some fun to it all and a kind of knowing about the production (one character who couldn’t possible know something that happened to the group is actually called out by another and the film seems to wink at the implausibility). The movie teases the empty-calorie teen romance films languishing all over the airwaves, disguising itself as one of them, hence having some reach beyond the teen demographic.
On top of all of this are both Holt and McCartan, two attractive actors who make this the most fun and will surely keep fans happy. McCartan (soon to appear in the new Rocky Horror Picture Show) is genuinely funny throughout, a charming and easy-to-like character while Holt, who already has legions of followers from her popular work on the Disney Channel, beams. (Many of the cast might be familiar to younger viewers). These two actors find some originality in a tried and true formula.
The Standoff is what it is and if you’re looking for some light, family movie entertainment, it’s a sure please. It will be available to rent or own on all digital platforms on September 20th, 2016 and on DVD November 11th, 2016. This is a pre-release review.
The Standoff (2016)
Director: Ilyssa Goodman
Writer: Leigh Dunlap
Stars: Olivia Holt, Ryan McCartan, McKaley Miller, Alex Wolff, Ciara Hanna