With nerds approaching the archaic and geeks largely played out, apparently it’s time for the dorks to have their day. Same basic idea, though: Desperately uncool kids who prefer comic books to sports struggle to make their way in a world that favors the emptily beautiful. (Never mind that the actors cast as dorks are still more physically attractive than 90 percent of the population.) Since there aren’t enough bona fide dorks out there to ensure profitability, movies like this paradoxically have to appeal to the very kids they’re ostensibly insulting, which explains why The Secret Lives Of Dorks is replete with deadly fart jokes, projectile-vomit jokes, accidental-boob-grab jokes, and various other sources of alleged humor that real-life outcasts wouldn’t voluntarily go anywhere near. In fact, it’s arguable that the jocks and cheerleaders are this movie’s true heroes, without whom those pathetic dorks would never be able to find one another.
Certainly, the school’s most popular girl (Riley Voelkel) is kinder to its biggest loser (Gaelan Connell) than either Hollywood tradition or cruel reality would dictate. Weary of Connell’s drooling attention, Voelkel decides that the best way to get him off her back is to set him up with one of his own kind—namely, the school’s unibrowed, husky-voiced goth girl (Vanessa Marano, best known as Luke’s dorky daughter April on the last two seasons of Gilmore Girls and the less-dorky Bay on Switched At Birth). Since Marano is already smitten with Connell, this shouldn’t be terribly hard, but blatant compatibility turns out to be no match for a long-standing crush on the hottest girl in town, especially now that she’s paying him so much attention. What’s more, Voelkel’s jock boyfriend (Beau Mirchoff) appears to be interested in somebody else, and his absence improbably makes her look at Connell’s pimply, sweaty face in a different light—so much so that she actually kisses it.
In more competent hands, The Secret Lives Of Dorks could have been a decent little teen movie—it even has one genuinely inspired idea, in which Voelkel and Marano attend the school’s Halloween party dressed as each other. Apart from Marano, however, who modulates her natural perkiness into a guttural trough of dry sarcasm, the cast is blandly unmemorable, with Connell in particular doing precious little with a part that required the charming desperation of a young John Cusack. Worse, nobody involved seems to trust the material, so each potentially witty or endearing moment gets drowned in a sea of lazy scatology (possible nadir: Marano appears to have pooped her pants) and quirky digressions. One of the few really good jokes, emerging from a parallel romance between one of Connell’s teachers (Jennifer Tilly) and his Chicago Bears-obsessed dad (James Belushi), involves a Mike Ditka instructional video called Ditka On Dating A Man Obsessed With Ditka. Even there, though, The Secret Lives Of Dorks can’t leave well enough alone—the last scene of the movie has someone projectile-vomit right into Ditka’s face. And the audience’s.