cranky home
Reviews since 1993:   A-E     F-N      O-Z    Posters       Who We Are and Why We Do What We Do         Search the Site

Your Donations support the Site

Top Selling DVD     Books

50 Shades of Grey
Exodus Gods and Kings
Grand Budapest Hotel
Imitation Game, The
Into the Woods

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Theory of Everything
Ride Along
We're the Millers
The Great Gatsby
The Avengers
Amazing Spider-Man
Girl w/ Dragon Tattoo
Dark Knight Trilogy
World War Z
Happy Feet 2
Iton Man 3 combo
Batman Begins
Dark Knight
Fifth Element
The Hangover
Hunger Games
James Bond 11 disc coll.
Lord of the Rings trilogy
Mission Impossible GP
Sherlock Holmes AGOS
Singing in the Rain
Snow White Huntsman
Star Trek Into Darkness combo
Star Wars Saga
21 Jump Street
Ultimate Matrix coll
X-Men First Class
X-Men Trilogy
X-Men Wolverine

 BLU-Ray for Family DVDs 
Alice in Wonderland (2010)
A Bug's Life
Chronicles of Narnia set
Harry Potter 1-8 collection
Iron Man 2 combo
Kung Fu Panda
Lord of the Rings Trilogy Pinocchio
Pirates of Caribbean trilogy
Pixar short films
Shrek the Whole Story
Sleeping Beauty
The Smurfs
Snow White & 7 Dwarfs
Star Trek motion pictures set
Star Trek TNG Season One
Star Wars Saga (1-6)
Toy Story combo
Toy Story 2 combo
Toy Story 3 combo
Wall-E SE


Search engine by FreeFind
Click to add search to YOUR web site!
click to search site

Alice in Wonderland
Beauty and the Beast
Kung Fu Panda
The Lion King
Mary Poppins 45th LE
Princess Mononoke
Shrek the Whole Story
Simpsons Movie
Spider-Man Trilogy
Spirited Away
Star Trek movies set
Star Trek TOS (TV)
ST:TNG complete tv set
Star Wars Trilogy (1-3)
Star Wars Trilogy (4-6)
Toy Story DVD combo
Toy Story 2 DVD combo
Toy Story 3 DVD combo
Wallace and Gromit
Wall-E SE

Buy Movie collectibles
TV/Movie Collectibles

movie review query engine

NY film critics online

Privacy Policy

Click for full sized poster

buy the poster

How to Deal

Starring Mandy Moore, Allison Janney
Screenplay by Neena Beber
Based on novels by Sarah Dessen
Directed by Clare Kilner

IN SHORT: It doesn't get any better than this... [Rated PG-13 for Sexual Content, Drug Material, Language and some thematic elements. 101 minutes]

No, seriously. We've now watched singer Mandy Moore (click for StarTalk) strut her stuff across the big screen several times and Moore hasn't shown chops. Her acting is emotionally flat as a pancake and, considering part of her thespian duties in How To Deal is to be affected by the events occurring around her, some emotional reaction would surely have been called for. Her character is pissed off at her dad for busting up a loving home which gets in the way of landing her first significant boyfriend all the while seeing her sister's and her best friend's relationships hit metaphorical trees. More below.

First, lest teen girls go running to their email programs, no, we're not the target demo that you are. That brings us to ...

Problem number two: If you haven't read the source material, novels by Sarah Dessen -- and policy on this site has always been that you shouldn't have to -- How to Deal is a frenetic hodge podge which tries to adapt two whole novel's worth of story material into a kidlet friendly hundred or so minutes. That would be a wonderfully distracting thing if the screenplay was any good, but it isn't. All that plot action gets in the way of doing that ol' character development thing that we expect. As y'all know, a little bit of character development goes a long way.

We're also of parenting age and know darn well that any of our mid-teen kids already know the four letter words that dot this film. That being regrettable said, we still wouldn't want our kids sitting for 'em. Their use -- two big ones. We think we caught one more -- is out of place and fit only to attain the PG-13 rating that the film bears. Those aside, there's enough stuff about teen sexuality that the language wasn't necessary to get the rating which, we are told by the kidlets in our family, makes the difference between a "good" movie and one "for babies". Kids closer in age to R territory would adjust what is suitable for babies.

Take a deep breath and we'll try to tell this clearly: Halley Martin (Mandy Moore) is sixteen give or take years old. Her mom (Alison Janney) and dad (Peter Gallagher) have just finalized a divorce -- her soft rockin' DJ dad will marry a much younger traffic reporter Lorna Queen (Laura Catalano) at his station and the new stepmom is taking the "mom" part of the name way too seriously. Older sister Ashley (Mary Catherine Garrison) has just popped the news that she will marry Lewis Warsher (Mackenzie Astin), the local rich kid. Best friend Scarlett (Alexandra Holden) has just taken the big sexual step with her steady Michael (John White), star of the high school soccer team. Halley isn't going to make the same mistakes mom made, and she's got her own best male pal, Macon Forrester (Trent Ford) to hang with. Enjoy the stumbles in their relationship -- a blonde pops up out of nowhere and eventually returns to same -- but you can see this one coming a mile away.

There's more drama for Moore, whose character runs a gauntlet of emotions from "Life Sucks" to "Life Sucks Even Worse Than Before" all the way to "Hey I'm Happy But Life Still Sucks". There's so much more jammed in that one prominent TV critic sitting behind us was in stitches, laughing hysterically, every time some other travail got dumped on poor Halley's head.

Offsetting these tales of unwanted pregnancy, death and various marriages and emotional couplings is an underutilized Janney, who gets a disposable love affair all her own. Not that she disposes of him. It's just a useless subplot which isn't exploited as much as one devoted to dad's new wife (and the reasons behind his divorce) are. The actress cast as Lorna is gravely out of place here, though, looking 30-ish when the script strongly implies that she should be in her 20s.

Oh, yeah. For comic relief, grandma (Nina Foch) smokes dope. We've seen it too many times before but will grant that it's probably a hoot to a teen.

Then there's the soundtrack. The one bit of positive-ness in the film, a moment of marital commitment, is underscored by the choice of Cat Stevens' "Wide World," one of the greatest tunes about a ruined love affair ever written. We're not sure that if the choice is supposed to be ironic, since it comes far too late in that particular subplot to fit the tone of its placement in the story. That we're even bothering to mention it is the best indicator of what a dumb choice it was. If someone is getting big bucks to negotiate for rights to songs to match a film's emotional texture and, possibly, generate a profitable soundtrack deal, it sure would be a good thing to listen to the words and read the script rather than cross check against Billboards cross referenced lists of chart positions.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to How to Deal, he would have paid . . .


How to Deal is bad soap opera, period. Femmes in our screening locked on to this story immediately, perhaps reliving that "first love. The one you never forget..." We, being neither femme nor fifteen, were pummeled by the action vs. development problem mentioned above.

amazon com link Click to buy films by Clare Kilner
Click to buy films starring Mandy Moore
Click to buy films starring Allison Janney
Click Here!

The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.