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Still shot from the movie: How to Deal.

How to Deal

Mandy Moore plays Halley, a young woman convinced that love is a nefarious unreachable goal. Get the movie review and more. »

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Overall: D+
Violence: A-
Sexual Content: D
Language: D+
Drugs/Alcohol: D
Run Time: 99
Theater Release: 18 Jul 2003
Video Release:
MPAA Rating: PG-13
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I have a theory as to why the vast majority of movies made for teens are so bad. At very most this demographic spans a six-year period, so astute entertainment producers have realized they can cook up the same dish of pasty dialogue and shallow plots over and over again. Just update the clothes and the language, spice with the latest liberal sexual attitudes, and a new audience will eat it up.

Reheating teen plot leftovers this week is Mandy Moore's newest film, How to Deal. It also offers a larger than average portion of "only-in-the-movies" corn.

Moore plays Halley, a young woman convinced that love is a nefarious unreachable goal. She arrives at this conclusion after living through the disintegration of her parents' marriage and listening to the constant prattling of her older sister who is planning "the wedding of the century." The jaded girl has even more reasons to hate love when she turns on the radio and hears that her disc jockey father is going to marry the blonde bombshell traffic reporter (in the real world, radio reporters with her looks are called television reporters).

She finds little solace from her redheaded girlfriend (played by twenty-six year-old Alexandra Holden, who must have fooled a nearsighted casting agent into believing she looked like a teenager). Aptly named, Scarlett is doing some serious hanging with their high school's Mr. Football. Halley discovers just how serious after (giggle, giggle) sauntering into Scarlett's bedroom without knocking. In all her wisdom, the seventeen-year-old advises, "Enjoy him, fool around with him, but don't fall in love with him."

Looking for some fun to lighten life, the chums head off to the school football game when suddenly, with a gasp and a fall to the ground, the pigskin star takes his last breath. The next scene has the girls asking one of life's toughest questions… what should Scarlett wear to the funeral?

Meanwhile, a young man named Macon (Trent Ford) decides to challenge Halley's stance. Despite her earlier protestations, his hot pursuit leads to a musical interlude with a montage featuring the happy couple doing fun things together as they fall in love. Scarlett tags along as the third wheel.

Not to worry, the redhead won't be lonely for long because even though Scarlett's boyfriend is gone with the wind, he's left behind a little surprise. After a half-dozen home pregnancy kits, she finally passes the ultimate biology test: Sex = Baby.

Strong language, comical use of marijuana by Halley's grandmother, underage drinking… the list of questionable activities for teens goes on and on, and yet very few consequences are depicted. Considering Mandy Moore's positive family image, this PG-13 movie serves an unexpected dish of tainted morals -- along with a stale script and performances.

How to Deal is rated PG-13: for sexual content, drug material, language and some thematic elements.

Cast: Mandy Moore, Allison Janney, Trent Ford

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About the Reviewer: Rod Gustafson

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