If you had a life or discerning taste, you very well could have missed Lifetime’s original movie, “The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story”. There was no advance screening of the movie, it made its debut at 9 pm on Labor Day with very little fanfare… you sort of get the feeling that the people at Lifetime almost didn’t want you to know any of this was happening.
I hadn’t caught wind of it myself until late last week. I was led there after I’d come across this link for another (sure-fire piece of trash) Lifetime original movie, “The Brittany Murphy Story”*. And so, I watched the clips that had been put out there for the Bell movie, inspired I had been led to believe by Dustin Diamond’s tell-all Behind the Bell.**
If you’ve read this site before, you’d know I enjoyed the show. So, naturally, I was convinced this was now something I had to see*** and I had the following thoughts:
- At best, a few of these kids kind of resemble the people they’re portraying. At worst, they’re at least all humans.
- This seems so literally low-budget and so low-quality, I can’t help but expect actual pornography.
- Why on Earth is this from Dustin Diamond’s perspective?
- The fact that the word “Unauthorized” is right in the title immediately makes me smile.
After watching the movie, here’s how I’d address each of those:
- Yeah… The kid playing Mario Lopez, with the wig they gave him, looked like a failed extra from “Thriller”. Or an-as-yet-unborn son of the bad guy from “The Mask”. The rest were fine, I suppose, aside from Elizabeth Berkley’s character. I think I look as much like Jessie Spano as she does.
- Sadly, there was no sexual activity. In fact, I believe there’s only two kisses in the whole thing. So, yeah.
- Because no one else wanted anything to do with this burning dumpster of a film, either because they’ve moved on or have more important things going on in their lives. Or both.
- Still makes me smile. As did the hashtag at the bottom of the screen #unauthorizedsavedbythebell. Nice try, Lifetime. Next time, make the hashtag so long you can’t even fit any negative criticism in the actual tweet.
Before I continue bashing this movie, I should say (as we all should when talking about this thing) that I knew what I was getting myself into when I sat down to watch a Lifetime movie. I saw the clips, I saw the makeup and the wigs, saw the befuddling casting decisions. But, most importantly, I’d seen the real Saved by the Bell. A show, mind you, that while wildly popular, was never any fucking good. At best, it was a cheese ball show that only made you feel uncomfortable on a cringe-level of awkwardness (either due to storyline or acting or both) three or four times an episode. At worst… well, you know, you watched.
We all loved the show, but it wasn’t any good. So, it’s really only fitting this movie could somehow manage to be as dull, heavy-handed with plot points (WE GET IT, SCREECH WAS AN OUTCAST!), cheesy and poorly acted as the show whose story it was attempting to tell.
For two hours, we are smashed over the head with the same few ideas… Dustin Diamond doesn’t fit in (more on this in a moment), Mark-Paul Gosselaar has difficulty adjusting to being America’s teen heartthrob, cast members (aside from Mario Lopez, whom the movie portrays as not giving much of a shit one way or the other) don’t want to be typecast and yearn to live their lives!… And you know what, that would be fine if there was more to the movie. But, much like the show itself, there isn’t.
Scene after useless scene passes by as we wait for something (ANYTHING) interesting to happen… and yet nothing does. The craziest it gets is when Dustin Diamond has some vodka poured into his soda before an SBTB meet-and-greet. By the end, I found myself wondering if the Zack-and-Kelly fuck scene simply didn’t make the final cut for this one.
The plot tries, desperately, to make you feel something for Diamond as the outcast, but all I wind up doing is disliking him more. He acts like an immature ass in the movie, laughing at Berkley’s first run-through of the “Caffeine Pills” scene when no one else is, getting publicly drunk when no one else is, smoking weed when no one else is… But Scott! He just wants to fit in, he’s awkward, he’s the youngest one in the cast! OK, fine. Still, don’t give a shit.
Dave Chappelle once joked about going to see Siegfried and Roy, that “that’s why we really go to the tiger show… You don’t go to see someone be safe with tigers. You go, thinking in the back of your mind, this [guy] might get bit”. And the same holds true for this movie. No one was watching this movie to see a bunch of miscast actors in a shoddy, sloppy script deal with, at worst, PG-level problems. You wanted the scandalous shit. And sadly, you got none of it.
I was hoping this movie would be awful enough to at least recommend to watch for humor purposes, but impossibly, it’s not even at that level.
*I’d love to meet the drunkard that approved the wigs being used for the girl playing Alicia Silverstone in that ‘movie’.
**You remember that one, right? The one where he basically attempted to make himself relevant again by putting out a book filled with some of the most salacious shit imaginable (orgies with creator Peter Engel, a rape accusation for Mario Lopez, rampant drug use, wild sexual activities and claims), only to slowly and pathetically retract many of the things he said, ultimately leading to the claim in a TIME article that “‘They gave [him] a ghostwriter who just talked to [him] for a few hours here and there on the phone’ and then came up with a false, final manuscript he was “powerless” to change”.
***While I realized the movie wasn’t airing on Showtime, I was surprised that the most controversial scene that was put out there for the movie featured a (gasp!) near shoving match between Diamond and Mario Lopez after a push-up contest on the set.