Mike's Delayed Reaction Review-#4-53, "Is It Fall Yet?"

Well, it took me long enough, but I finally found the time to bust this thing out. Iíd like to thank everyone for being patient and for being polite when asking when this would be done. As you can see itís a whole lot longer than any other review, which definitely contributed to its delayed appearance.

Note: While episode #413 (Dye! Dye! My Darling) will be considered the official Season 4 final, for my own numbering purposes Is It Fall Yet? will be part of Season 4 (It aired between the end of Season 4 and the beginning of Season 5).

Spoilers Space for Is It Fall Yet? (If you donít want to know, then donít scroll!)

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Mike's Delayed Reaction Review - "Is It Fall Yet?"

MDRR #4-53

The Last Day of School - The last day of school means a lot of things - giving books back, cleaning out desks/lockers, possibly getting report cards, discussing summer plans, watch crazy teachers teetering over the edge, etc. It seemed to mean these things at Lawndale, too. It also meant saying "good bye" to all the friends youíll be hanging out with all summer. Herein lies the problem for Daria and Jane; they arenít going to be hanging out all summer because Jane is going to art camp. There was a large amount of tension between the two of them on that last day of school. Jane got very defensive about everything Daria said to her - thinking that it might be about something she didnít want to talk about, namely, Tom. For instance, I donít think Janeís reply to Dariaís, "I think Iím turning into you," was purely a joke (for the record, she said something like, "youíve already go so much of mine, why not my identity, too?"). I think Jane getting out of the situation was a blessing. It gave her a chance to not think about it for a while.

Anything You Can Do, I Should Do Better - Itís amazing what a little competitive streak can do for someone. Take Quinn as an example, after taking her PSTATs (not PSATs, probably some copyright thing), and getting a score on the same order as the rest of the Fashion Club (her score was the best, but only marginally so), some internal switch turned on and told her that she could do way better. But, what may or may not have started out as a sort of competition to Quinn, quickly changed into a small re-evaluation of her own values, especially in terms of her relative useful aptitude (meaning anything not Fashion Club related) to her so called "friends." It turns out that she does care about doing well just for herself, she just has a hard time admitting it to anyone (she does keep displaying her "superior intellect, like when she quickly pointed out that luaus are usually in Hawaii) and this new found desire to perform well in school, leads to the hiring of...

David the Tutor - Quinnís tutor was a smart guy, sort of arrogant, but good at what he does. And what he does (or did), is get students with less that stellar track records back on the right track. This was exactly what he did with Quinn. She pretty much started out at ground zero, except she did sort of, kind of wanted to do well. Her main problem was focus and priorities - she doesnít usually focus on the right ones. David basically had to threaten to leave to get her to pay attention and really get her admit that she wanted to learn (unlike the rest of her clique, whom Iíll get to in a minute). Once she started to pay attention, she started to learn, not to mention develop a crush on her pedagogue (look here Maw, I learned me a new word!) because he wanted to help her academically. Then, in sort of a role reversal for her, she tries her darnest to get him to acknowledge her in another way, until he told her that it couldnít work with the standard "weíre from two different worlds" spiel. If we learned anything at all, itís that Quinn is becoming less shallow (it would have been nice to see some gradual progression of this during the last season, but Iíll take what I can get) - she put herself in a vulnerable position because of her feelings.

Rent a Brain - Before we leave this mini-theme, Iíd like to go over how the rest of the fashion fiends were involved in "tutor-gate." Naturally, when Sandi learned that Quinn had a tutor, she tried to use it against her rival and embarrass her with it. When the 3 Jís decided that it was cool, and the original plan backfired, she went with the "if you canít beat Ďem, join Ďem" routine by hiring David, too (and, of course, Tiffany and Stacy followed suit). Of course, they all lasted about five seconds each. Sandi got rid of David by being nasty to him, Tiffany, by not listening to a word he said and Stacy, who was the only one that showed ant desire to learn, broke down when she found out that Sandi and Tiffany were dropped (and in the process, reduced my hope that sheíll grow a backbone even further).

Behind the Mask #1 - Daria's plans of loafing away the entire summer were thwarted by Helen volunteering her to work at the "It's OK to Cry" camp. The conversation, which enlightened Daria to this development, contained a significant moment, when Helen told Daria that she wasn't going to let her stay behind her anti-social mask. On the surface, it kind of seems ridiculous for Helen to imply that Daria anti-social persona is not her real self. However, if we probe a little deeper, it does seem to make some sense. Daria isn't really anti-social, she's just really picky about when and with whom she is social. The problem with that is, that at some point you have to deal with social situations that you would rather not. You might as well learn how to handle them when it's not that big a deal. Another comment about Helen's statement, it's possible that Helen was also talking about herself. Perhaps she feels that she's sacrificing some of her identity to her profession, and that she doesn't want Daria to do anything remotely similar.

It Takes Two to Tango - One of the major plot threads of the movie was the supposed "love triangle," which, in reality, was nothing more than an exploration of Daria and Tomís new relationship (Jane barely figured in this part of the plot, so Iím going to put her aside for now, besides, I already sort of covered it). Daria never seemed to be as comfortable or excited about the whole attempt at dating as Tom was. Granted, part of that had to do with the fact that they had to explain to just about everyone the saw that Tom wasnít Janeís boyfriend anymore, but it does go a bit deeper than that. She was also a little bit bothered by some of the things Tom was or wasnít saying - like the fact that her didnít tell his family about her until they met her. That led to him saying that "itís not like youíre (meaning Daria) Jane," which set her off. His "upper-crusty-ness" was another thing that made her uncomfortable (the Morgendorfferís and the Sloanís - which is Tomís now revealed last name - arenít exactly in the same tax bracket). This felt like more of a rationalization on her part, it gave her a reason not to see him. However, itís not like Daria didnít ruffle any feathers. She did seem to be picking fights with him. She was being contrary just to cause conflict. There was a blow up, and then they took a "break."

Camp Boring - Of all the adjectives you could use to describe Mr. O'Neill's camp program, "exciting" isn't one of them. Being cooped up inside, doing tedious arts and crafts, while summer is going on outside, isn't what most kids want. Like most of them said, they wanted to go outside run around, and have some fun. Everyone except Mr. O'Neill, even, maybe especially, our favorite stress machine, Mr. DeMartino, realized it. Mr. DeMartino was trying desperately to find his will to teach again - something that seemed to be a long shot. And for a lot of the time, it was not working, until his stress level started to work for him, instead of against him. He made one of the campers cry by yelling at him for painting football players. Of course, this seemed like a bad thing, until the other campers cheered him for it (it seems that camper was a real pain in the ass). Mr. DeMartino's confidence gradually built up and reenergized his love for his craft, culminating in a broken window and freedom for the campers to experience nature. And I just loved his advice to the campers on the last day (and I'm paraphrasing): "If you get mad, go ahead; if someone is annoying you, tell them about it; and take a hike, whenever you feel like it."

Fartsy Artsy - For Jane, going to the summer art camp was a perfect thing to do. It gave her a chance to get away from things that were causing her problems in the first place. This was a way to relax in a secluded area and refocus some of that frustrated energy. The catch was that art camp presented its own delightful problems. First, she was just about ignored by her cabin mates. Then she had to listen to that windbag prattle on about what inspires him. Then there was Allison. Allison "saw" something in Jane. OK, letís just cut to the chase, Allison was attracted to Jane and saw an easy opportunity to get some nookie that hit a speed bump when Jane hit the brakes. Allison was nothing too special, just an aspiring artist willing to do anything, or anyone, for a shot. But her encounter with Jane started Jane down a short path of doubt. Jane was really clear to Allison that she wasnít interested, but it ultimately troubled her - she thought that maybe a lot of other people also thought she was gay (Allison did say she never "makes mistakes"). Those doubts we washed away when Jane discovered Allisonís promiscuity (along with that of our aforementioned windbag) and after a little encouragement from a friend.

Save Us from Them! - Kevin and Brittany performed their summer jobs as lifeguards exactly how anyone could have expected - poorly. They pretty much caused a lot more trouble than they solved, by setting a bad example for the kids by horsing around in the pool and by turning mouth-to-mouth resuscitation lesson into a peep show. Itís a wonder that anyone would hire them for such a sensitive job in the first place (apparently, their reputation doesnít precede them as much as I thought). As we found out after they took over the ice cream truck, they have trouble with making change. On the plus side, while Kevin and Brittanyís role wasnít entirely a background one, they didnít seem to dominate the entire plot, like they did in some early season four episodes (A Tree Grows in Lawndale comes to mind).

I Donít Get It - A clever running gag had to do with Jakeís ability to perceive humor. At first, he couldnít get the concept at all. He gradually started to get it and, by the end of the movie, was cracking jokes of his own with his, "is it summer already?" quip (which was hilarious, but begs the question "how?" How did he figure this out over one summer, when heís obviously had trouble with the concept for at least two "Lawndale" years?). This theme worked its way into a couple other scenes, as well. Like the scene at Tomís parentís club, when no one laughed at one of Dariaís jokes until Elsie did, and the whole second confrontation between Daria & Tom and Kevin & Brittany at the party.

The Missing Link - I just had to use that title (chuckle). One of Daria's campers, Link, wasn't really ever in a good mood. Who could blame him, it seemed that his life at home with his mother, father, stepfathers, whoever, wasn't exactly a good time. He was also miserable because of the sorry state of Mr. O'Neill's camp. Daria noticed that he seemed to be having trouble and was withdrawing into his own little corner. She tried to reach out to him and be his friend, and it was working for a while. But it was muddled during Daria's "things would be easier if you don't keep it bottled up" speech (believe me, I know) by Mr. O'Neill. But he did seem to get over it, and actually reached out to Daria after camp was over by sending that note (see what happens when you try to help).

Iíd Rather Be in School - As for one of Lawndale Highís more "attractive" couple (at least in terms of inability to make me want to vomit), Mack and Jodie, their summer turned quickly into a living hell of sorts, with Mack having to work the ice cream truck to pay back his father and Jodie being caught in "college application padding" mode (and while extracurricular activities help this cause, there is a point where doing so many extra stuff doesnít really matter much anymore - in other words, give that girl a break). Mack seemed to be really hurting, not only because his job sucked, but also because it kept him from seeing Jodie (along with her over booked schedule). I was glad to see that it all worked out for them at the end (even though there wasnít much of a story beyond "they havenít seen each other in a while, now they did and theyíre happy"). Also, major continuity plus points to the writers for remembering Mackís debt (first mentioned in Partnerís Complaint) and Jodieís summer "fun" (first mentioned in The F Word).

Still Be Freakiní Friends - Once Daria went to visit Jane at the art camp, they made up, but not without some tension. As Trent pointed out to Daria, Jane "knew that no one was trying to hurt her" (he also said "betrayal" a hundred times), and it was only a matter of time before they could stand each other again. But the scene in the bar where Mystik Spiral was playing was a classic. Jane promised not to "find a boyfriend between sets" and both of them tried to blame someone else for everything that happened. They finally realized that fighting about nothing, and arguing just to argue, wasnít a good idea and that they missed each other. As for the Dariaís encouragement of Jane, Daria told Jane that she likes her because Jane "knows exactly who she is." Daria dispelled all of what was left of Janeís sexual identity doubts without even knowing it (now thatís friendship!). Finally, as they said good bye, Jane realized that she was over all the "love triangleí nonsense, and that Daria should give Tom another chance (she is more well adjusted!).

Behind the Mask #2 - Quinn went to Daria for advice on how to handle her little crush on David. Daria helped Quinn by sort of using some of Helen's advice as her own. Daria also complemented Quinn on becoming more normal, that she could look past someone's appearance to what is really important and that she could give that part a chance. Daria even waved Helen off the situation - she did have it under control. Sometimes the best way to learn something is to teach it yourself.

Ironico, Indeed - Sort of ironically, the catalyst of the resolution to Dariaís problem with Tom was Quinnís mini-crush on her tutor. She went to Daria for advice on how to handle it. Daria turned out describing her relationship with Tom in the process of advising. When Quinn pointed that out and noted how compatible Daria and Tom are, Daria got the message, which eventually led to her "giving him a chance."

The First Day of School - The first day of school went about the same as any other day, sort of miserably. However, this miserable day had an almost silver lining. Mack and Jodie are back together happily. Quinn is using her brain without being embarrassed by it and, in the process, reaffirmed Mr. DeMartinoís zest for teaching in a scene that was a nice touch (if you donít remember, Mr. DeMartino asked the same "manifest destiny" question that he asked Dariaís class in Esteemsters, of course Quinn answered it correctly, and very much in her own words). Daria and Jane relinquished what was left of their animosity for each other, while Tom and Daria restarted their try at a relationship. But the running theme is that, after a long and arduous summer full with all kinds of trials and tribulations, things are now on an upswing. Itís not perfect, but definitely rosier (who said this show was pessimistic?).

Thereís not much else to add, this was a quality movie that ended a quality season of Daria (not to mention, giving an ending to the "love triangle" mini-arc that left open the possibility for later exploration). I only really had a couple complaints, some of the scenes were kind of unnecessary, and the celebrity guest voices didnít add a whole lot. Not absolutely perfect, but very very good.

Grade: A-

Daria as a Whole #1, Alter-Ego of the Week - There obviously isnít one, because there were no alter-egos and I didnít have a particular favorite among the "outtakes." They were all good.

Daria as a Whole #2, Hope They Worked Cheap - I hope whomever makes out the checks for the voice actors didnít spend too much on our celebrity guests. Bif Naked and Dave Grohlís parts, quite frankly, could have been done by anyone and no one would have cared (itís not like it attracted their fans to the movie, my brother is a huge Foo Fighters fan, and I couldnít get him to watch the movie). Hey Glenn, hereís an idea, for the next movie, God willing, give me a call and Iíll do all the new male character voices and Iíd probably be so happy to be there, that I probably wouldnít even ask for any money. However, I think Carson Daly deserves high honors (if only for the longest "cameo" in TV history). He did a wonderful job as Quinnís tutor. I think he gets a bad rap from some Daria fans. Iím no fan of TRL, but of what I have seen suggests to me that Carson doesnít always like the gig - he seems to have a definite sarcastic cynical streak.

Daria as a Whole #3, The Dreaded Word Count - Not counting this entry, youíve read 3045 words of review. Wake up!!!

 

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"Daria" and all related characters are © 1997-2000 MTV Networks, Inc.