Welcome to the Dollhouse
Entertainment: +2 1/2
Acceptability: -2

Junior high is one unpleasant moment after another for seventh grader Dawn Wiener (Heather Matarazzo), the tormented focus of this dark satire, which won top honors at this year's Sundance Film Festival. Dawn wants to be popular, but because she's awkward and unattractive she's a target for abuse. Her classmates tag her with the humiliating nickname Wiener Dog. Her locker is the only one in the entire school that has been defaced. A simple trip to the lunchroom is an exercise in terror, as she is verbally assaulted by girls who accuse her of being a lesbian. School bully Brandon (Brendan Sexton) threatens to rape her. Life at home isn't any more pleasant, as Dawn's parents focus their devotion on two siblings an older brother who's a computer nerd and a ballet-obsessed, adorable younger sister. The only brief joy in Dawn's life is her ultimately futile crush on high school hunk Steve (Eric Mabius), the lead singer for her brother's rock band. Dollhouse doesn't present a homogenized version of the junior high years, but the relentless misfortunes heaped on this poor girl are too often played for laughs. This account of one adolescent's junior high ordeal may have a touch of truth, but its exaggerated style overwhelms and loses any true realism.

The film features disturbing behavior by its young students. A young boy is beaten by bullies, and Dawn is threatened with rape twice by Brandon as he holds a knife to her throat. She shows up for their appointment, apparently willing to have sex although she learns Brandon just wants to talk. Dawn talks about girls that would interest Steve with her brother, who says they just have to be willing to go all the way. Another teenage girl talks about her sexual experience with Steve, while Dawn expresses her desire to make love to Steve while looking at his picture. The cruelty inflicted by her classmates includes frequent crude and obscene language, even many f- and s-words. Its only value to parents might be to get information about possible problems their youngsters are experiencing at school. In that sense, WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE is a real horror story.

Preview Reviewer: Mark Perry
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics, 711 Fifth Ave., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10222

Crude Language: Many (12) times - Mild 3, Moderate 9
Obscene Language: Many (39) times - (f-word 19, s-word 18, other 2; boys use obscene gestures)
Profanity: Few (3) times - Exclamatory
Violence: Few (2) times - Mild (girl twice threatened with a knife)
Sexual Intercourse: None, but girl talks about sexual experience
Nudity: Once (centerfold in locker)
Homosexual Conduct: None, but teens accused of being homosexual with crude terms
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog: Few times (girl fantasizes about sex with boy, boy threatens to rape girl, young teens kiss passionately)
Drug Abuse: Cigarette smoking
Running Time: Unknown
Intended Audience: Older teens and adults

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