May 3, 2016

SVT #53, The Slime That Ate Sweet Valley: It’s Ironic That Leslie Has Stage Fright About a Horror Movie

Posted in books tagged , at 5:09 pm by Jenn

Elizabeth is right to be this amused

Elizabeth is right to be this amused

Summary: The sixth-graders have reached that point in the school year where they just can’t handle the thought of doing more work. When I was in college, we called that October. Mr. Bowman, everyone’s favorite English teacher, agrees to let them do something different. A girl named Leslie Forsythe thinks they should make a movie – writing the script would fit in with their English curriculum, and the whole experience would be educational. Mr. Bowman and the rest of the class think this is a great idea.

Jessica and Lila both want to play the lead. Never mind that the movie doesn’t even have a plot yet. Leslie is somehow friends with a woman named Deirdre who works at a video store and studied acting in college, so Leslie takes a few classmates to meet her after school. Leslie secretly wants to be an actress, too, but is too shy to fulfill her dreams. Deirdre thinks Leslie should work on that and get over it, since her own acting career was derailed by stage fright, and she doesn’t want Leslie to face the same fate.

The guys want to do a horror movie, but the girls want a romance. Elizabeth comes up with a kind of compromise: a horror spoof with a love triangle. The students then write down which three jobs they’d like on the movie. Jess and Lila only want to act. Leslie does, too, but pretends it’s just because she can’t think of another job she wants. Liz and Amy end up thinking up a plot everyone likes: A boy grows cucumbers in his basement, one becomes infested with some kind of slime, and the slime gets into a love triangle with the boy and his girlfriend. This is more creative than 85% of what gets made in Hollywood.

Even though the plot hasn’t been finalized and there’s no script, auditions are held. There are only a handful of characters – in addition to the three mains, there’s the boy’s grandmother and sister, as well as an English teacher. The principal kindly agrees to play himself and get eaten by the Slime. That’s pretty awesome. Two of the boys auditioning for the male lead are Winston and resident nerd Randy Mason. Jess and Lila are horrified that they have to read with these guys, though both boys prove to be good actors. Lila’s audition sucks, but Jessica’s is good.

Leslie’s supposed to audition last, but she overhears Lila and Ellen talking trash about her. They think she’s a loser and could never land the female lead. Even though Elizabeth and Amy were supportive, Leslie decides it’s not worth the risk to audition – she could screw up in front of everyone and embarrass herself. Plus, she would have to read with Randy, and face her huge crush on him. Awww, nerdy love. I’m going to picture Leslie as Alex from Modern Family.

Since Leslie didn’t audition, Jessica has little competition and lands the female lead. She’ll be acting opposite Randy as the male lead. Mr. Bowman first picks Lila to play the Slime (I thought her audition was horrible?), but there’s no way Lila Fowler is going to do something like that, so Winston gets the part and Lila is put in charge of clean-up. Ha! Lila assigns herself the job of camera operator, since her father just got an expensive new camcorder and she’s the only one allowed to use it.

Lila’s new interest in making movies drives her friends crazy. She takes the camcorder on a trip to the mall and films the Unicorns embarrassing themselves. I have a feeling there’s a lot of footage of Ellen doing stupid things. Meanwhile, the movie’s screenwriters – Elizabeth, Amy, Leslie, and Maria – come up with a plot point that will also embarrass Jessica. They think her character, Sherri, should kiss the Slime.

When Jess reads the script, she’s outraged. She’ll have to kiss both Randy and Winston on screen. Plus, rehearsals start next week, so Jessica needs to pucker up pretty soon. Jess finds ways to delay the kiss at rehearsals, being enough of a diva that they run out of time fulfilling her needs, then faking a cold. Lila invites Jess over to teach her about stage kissing, but it’s really just an excuse for Lila to film Jessica while she makes a fool out of herself.

Leslie watches a movie with her new buddies Elizabeth, Amy, and Maria, and when the sound goes out, Leslie acts out the ending. The other girls gush over what a great actress she is. Leslie admits that she was too shy to audition for the movie, and was afraid to have to speak full sentences in front of her crush. Maria, who’s been through this herself, gives Leslie some encouragement.

Lila shows a bunch of people the embarrassing footage she’s gotten of her friends, including Jessica’s fake make-out session with a pillow. She points out that if Jess is humiliated by it, she’ll be even more humiliated when she has to kiss Randy and Winston on camera. Jess agrees and drops out of the movie. Now that Leslie has the courage to audition, she nails it and gets Jessica’s role.

The rest of the filmmaking goes smoothly, and after just a couple weeks, the final product is ready to be screened. Jessica puts together a fake film for the coming attractions, starring Lila doing the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet opposite a mop, while wearing curlers and an oatmeal face mask. This is her payback for embarrassing all her friends. Looks good on you, Li. Why are they all friends with her, anyway?

So I guess the final movie is spectacular and Leslie is a star. She inspires Deirdre to go back to acting. Of course. And after all the talk of her crush, Leslie disappears and we never hear about her and Randy becoming a couple. Oh, well.

Thoughts: Ellen: “It’s worse than dumb. It’s stupid.” Well, Ellen would know.

Caroline: “How do you audition for the part of a Slime victim?” Mr. Bowman: “Just be yourself, Caroline.” I know that was supposed to be innocent, but it reminded me of an exchange from Addams Family Values: “I’ll be the victim!” “All your life.”

The Unicorns have a weird pajama contest at a sleepover: “Belinda’s weird pajamas turned out to be an old Ranger T-shirt and a pair of baseball pants.” Belinda, are you even trying? Then again, Lila just wears a long shirt with a unicorn on it, which is nowhere near weird.

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