American Teen (2008)

Genre(s): Documentary
Paramount || PG13 - 95 minutes - $24.99 || December 23, 2008
Reviewer: Morgan Wilson || Posted On: 2009-02-06

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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

.:: V I D E O ::.

.:: A U D I O ::.

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Director: Nanette Burstein
Writer(s): Nanette Burstein (written by)
Cast: NA

Theatrical Release Date: July 25, 2008

Supplemental Material:
  • Pop Quiz: Cast Interviews
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Hannah Blogs
  • Character Trailers

Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (1.85)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English

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.::THE FILM::.

American Teen is a documentary about five Indiana high school seniors and the ups and downs of their lives before graduation.

It made me nauseous just viewing American Teen, remembering all of the ugly names, mean people, smoking, drinking, and vandalism that comes with school. The film shows the everyday problems and stress of being a teenager, although I know they couldn't show everything, because if they did they would've had an NC-17 film on their hands (it's the truth, people).

No matter who you are, you will find someone or something to identify with in American Teen. I mostly related to Jake (the trailer calls him “The Geek”), who's less “Farmer Ted” and more “Brian Johnson” (if I may be so bold as to speak in John Hughes terms). But everyone is different, so if you find yourself identifying with Megan, Hannah, Jake, Mitch, Colin, or any of the other teens, then I'd say that the film has served its purpose.

To be honest, I didn't want to see this film. The trailer (and hell, even the cover art) tries to make everyone into a stereotype. But the truth is that nobody in American Teen can be categorized, they're all individuals. They try day-in and day-out to be liked by their peers and gain a reputation, although some of them are more successful than others. I'm sure that everyone can learn something and I believe that I came out of the film a slightly better person than I might have been had I not watched it in the first place.

Director Nanette Burstein (who also directed 2002's The Kid Stays in the Picture) gets almost everything right in American Teen, and if it weren't for the animated sequences I would have said she had. The dialogue during them seems scripted, and that's the only thing that keeps me from rating the film as highly as possible.

American Teen's soundtrack comprises mostly of alternative/indie rock. Featuring such notable acts as Black Kids and The Ting Tings, it's sure to please. I couldn't see the film with any other music, although apparently some people have, as it was originally released with different musical selections. They most likely did this because they couldn't get the rights to the music they had intended to be in the film for the original theatrical release, and yes; this version does have Cat Stevens' “Trouble”.

Being a teenager is a rough time of your life, and American Teen understands everything. It's a near-uncompromising look at all of the trials and tribulations of becoming an adult and the steps along the way. Superbad may have been every teenager's fantasy, but American Teen is every teenager's reality.


I'm sorry to say that this disc is very light on special features. Only one of which is in any way informative, and that's Pop Quiz: Cast Interviews which runs about 4 minutes.

We've got about 10 minutes of Deleted Scenes that go along with the style of the movie (which are actually pretty entertaining), and were most likely cut for pacing reasons.

Then they give us some Hannah Blogs which in total run about 18 minutes. She covers such mind-blowing topics as why she loves her dog, the perfect guy, and the perfect date. Probably better suited for a “Playboy” article, this is pure fluff.

Rounding out the disc are five Character Trailers, and a handful of Previews.


Shot on mini DV, this isn't a disc to show off your new big screen TV. Combining home video footage and professional camerawork, it's a mixed bag to say the least. This is definitely not the fault of the transfer, and the film is presented in anamorphic widescreen in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1.

The dialogue comes through nice and clear, but the music tends to sound a little muddy. This is most likely the fault of the transfer and the film is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround.


While the film may be an intelligent look at being a teenager, the DVD's special features and surround mix are what bring this otherwise-great movie down. I'd still recommend that you buy American Teen, but keep the DVD in mind when you make your decision.