Filled with good intentions, but missing the "sass" that made indie classics from films like "Welcome to the Dollhouse," "Party Girl," and "Muriel’s Wedding," Coley Cohn’s "Sassy Pants" is about a character who is as far from being sassy as Haley Joel Osment is from being a real medium. But we’ll get back to that.
Bethany Pruitt (Ashley Rickards, MTV’s "Awkward") is a depressed home-schooled teenager (see? No sass...) on the verge of graduating her class of, well, one. She is smothered by her controlling mother June (Anna Gunn) who keeps Bethany so trapped in a bubble that her behavior verges on child abuse. Bethany dreams of many things: getting away from her mother, the boy-next door (Rene Rosado), and going to the Fashion Institute of San Francisco. But her mother foils her attempts at every turn, ultimately signing her up for online college courses so she can keep her close by. If mom weren’t a nut-job enough, she has a moody younger brother Shayne (Martin Spanjers) and a chain-smoking grandmother (Jenny O’Hara) who seems to be on the verge of kicking the bucket.
Having had enough of her mother’s antics, Bethany finally escapes and goes to live with her gay dad Dale (Diedrich Bader) and his much younger boyfriend Chip played by - wait for it - Hayley Joel Osment. Yes. Packed into short jean shorts, boots, a "hey girl" haircut, wearing eyeliner and consistently calling Bethany "girlfriend" as awkwardly as, say, Anne Hathaway playing a gangsta, the little boy from "The Sixth Sense" is all grown up, a bit paunchy, and kinda furry. He’s a cub, folks! Which is funny seeing as he was the lead voice in "Disney’s The Country Bears."
Anyway, Bethany winds up getting a job, getting fired, moving back home... etc. etc. etc. - all so she can finally get the backbone to say "f.u." to her mother and live her own life. While this growth is indeed earned and something for which to cheer, as much of a comedy as this intends to be, it’s humorless and mean-spirited. Bethany is pretty much dumped on by everyone and her social skills are so backward it is almost cause for alarm.
Rickards is a likeable actress, but almost too pretty to be in this role. It’s also a bit too similar to her role in the MTV comedy "Awkward" where she plays a girl who is... awkward.
With snappier dialogue and a home life that wasn’t so over-the-top it borders on disturbing, "Sassy Pants" might have been more of a hit. Despite a likeable cast, however, it misses too often to recommend. That said, its lack of charm is relatively harmless.