The teen dramedy reigned supreme in the late 1990s/early 2000s. Films like Bring it On, American Pie and pretty much anything on the WB television channel were perfect representations of what young audiences craved. However, in recent years the teen dramedy has matured and undergone a bit of a transformation. Now, independent filmmakers are tackling the genre and adding significant amounts of grit to stories about young people. Perhaps the internet boom is partly responsible for this but this once thriving genre is now pretty much nonexistent. The new film At the Top of the Pyramid, while flawed and clichéd, does offer a few nostalgic nods to the time in which bubblegum pop films were all the rage.
Pyramid focuses on Jamie Parker (Elle McLemore), a beautiful and innocent cheerleader who has something of a troubled past. Her father (Dean Cain) passed away some years ago and we get cheesy flashbacks which showcase how great a guy he was. On top of that, Jamie became a victim and focus of much embarrassment when she fell mysteriously during a cheerleading competition a while back. There is a serious controversy surrounding this incident and Jamie must confront the “mean girls” led by Diana Prince (Jessica Luza) who may or may not be responsible for the fall. We also get some ridiculous romantic drama involving Jamie and jocks CW (Michael W. Peterson) and Marcuss (Isaac J. Sullivan) plus some additional heat from goofy Hispanic gardener Miguel (Miguel Jarquin-Moreland).
While Pyramid suffers from an obvious low budget, an underwhelming script and a very unrealistic plot, it isn’t completely without merit! Elle McLemore actually gives a decent performance and is quite good in the film’s lead. The rest of the high school student cast members are adequate and definitely provide some great energy in their respective roles. Dean Cain appears scattered throughout in flashbacks and Steve Guttenberg only shows up in about two scenes as the school principal. It’s a bit weird that these two well-known actors are even present in this film but without them, Pyramid would suffer even more than it already does.
Another positive aspect of Pyramid is its high spirited soundtrack which features the music of hip hop artist REYN. With many of the songs celebrating the message of diversity, Pyramid offers a healthy dose of fun. There is even a scene at a local diner and teen hangout where the main cast members inexplicably breakout in song. Now, for many casual audiences, this scene would be deemed ludicrous but it is so off the wall and unpredictable, one can’t help but appreciate its randomness.
Filmmakers Lawrence Jordan, Mark A. Peterson and Richard Willis Jr. have put together a rather curious film with At the Top of the Pyramid. It is a charming little story full of interesting characters and a noble theme: diversity. Younger audiences will definitely appreciate the film due to its wide-eyed innocence. It falters here and there and there is a certain cheapness about it but at its core is a message so profound, that people might overlook its shortcomings and embrace its pros.