Joel Schumacher has been a filmmaker adrift since his double Batman debacle in the ’90s, alternating sleazy thrillers with earnest dramatic efforts, neither to great effect. He’s at least crawled back from straight-to-video oblivion with Twelve, a misguided teen drama that was roundly mocked at Sundance earlier this year. Schumacher may have once had his finger on the pulse of teen culture, but it’s been a long time since St. Elmo’s Fire and The Lost Boys, and Twelve is a laughably over-the-top mix of Gossip Girl and the works of Bret Easton Ellis, based on a novel that writer Nick McDonell published when he was 17.
McDonell at least has the excuse of inexperience; Schumacher has no such justification for including long, undiluted chunks of the author’s turgid prose in mannered narration by Kiefer Sutherland. The voice-over is so omnipresent that at times watching the movie is like listening to an audiobook while perusing an interior-design magazine, as Schumacher’s camera takes in the lavishly appointed homes of obscenely wealthy Manhattan teens. Like any number of Ellis creations, the characters in Twelve engage in casual sex, casual drug use and casual violence, which is portrayed with as much empty bluster as possible. Gossip Girl’s Chace Crawford floats through the movie as the ostensible protagonist, a drug dealer called White Mike, although there are a good dozen other seemingly important characters who show up only to have their storylines trail off into nowhere.
The sprawling cast features a handful of strong performers, including Rory Culkin and Emily Meade, but the characters are strictly one-dimensional, mostly in the same way. Being a rich prep-school asshole is, like, totally a drag, and all the drugs and guns in New York City can’t give it any meaning. Neither, unfortunately, can Joel Schumacher.