Alexander Payne, from the beginning, was able to pull off a dizzying, perfectly even balance of nasty misanthropy with fairness. Every character is a cartoon, yet there is enough nuance to allow for clear-eyed commentary on: the way we punish ambitious women, the way we punish civil servants for "lacking" ambition, and the way we're all punished by good old Midwestern-style emotional repression.
The criticism of US internal political dynamics is very astute at times. The teen flick/sexual comedy portion of the film less so. The teacher side of things is a bit gratuitous, in defense of traditional values, and does not add much more than an excuse for kicking events off. Both teachers so weak they cannot resist temptation while their wives are human but strong and honest is a bit much. Short enough, do watch,
Watching this in 2016 does not give the viewer a sense of nostalgia towards American comedies around 2000s. This film which might have been good at point of creation just feels tiring, from its jokes to its aesthetic. Even the cast feels like something that never really made it out of the 90s.. and for a reason. Contextualising the film and seeing it as a part of progression of the American comedy just might save it.
"No, they don't ever have to work for anything! they think they can just all of a sudden, one day, out of the blue, waltz right in with no qualifications whatsoever and try to take away what other people have worked for very, very hard their entire lives!" - I can't believe this movie predicted the 2016 US presidential election 17 years ago, right down to the tightness of the race