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Byline: Bob Strauss Film Critic

Remember Nikki Reed? She was the provocatively precocious adolescent who co-wrote and played the bad influence in ``Thirteen.''

That was a good, smart and terrifyingly observant movie about girls gone wild. Now the 18-year-old Reed is back on the big screen in ``Mini's First Time.''

It's a bad, preposterous and horrifyingly cliched black comedy about a girl gone wicked. Older now but still looking like the same jailbait, Reed seems to have actually regressed on the acting front.For all of her child-woman wiliness, Reed isn't old enough yet to understand that the girl she's playing just isn't as cool as she thinks she is.

What Mini actually is is a fantasy construct for kids who really, really hate their parents. Amoral, sociopathic, totally confident and utterly without fear.

Anyway, Mini has good reason to despise her neglectful slut of a mother, Diane (Carrie-Anne Moss). Mom's a failed actress who married public relations exec Martin (Alec Baldwin) for his money.

Diane just wants to party all the time and fool around with her masseur. Martin's no better; he keeps a secret apartment downtown for assignations with prostitutes. And guess who knocks on that door one night? His darling stepdaughter, who has signed up with an escort agency as her latest act of rebellion.

But that, we're to believe, is not her only motivation. The First Time part of the title refers to Mini's interest in trying new things, so her experiments grow bolder.

Once she's got Martin wrapped around her finger, Mini convinces him that they should secretly drive Diane nuts, get her committed and live Woody and Soon-Yi ever after. This involves mixing up Mom's already massive pharmaceutical intake and playing increasingly terrifying pranks on the addled woman.

But there are those first-timer glitches, darn it. Soon, a laconic but dogged detective (Luke Wilson) and the sleazeball producer next door (Jeff Goldblum) are eyeing Martin and, especially, Mini, up.

And that's when this movie slips gears from a stupider version of last year's Beverly Hills bad-girl comedy ``Pretty Persuasion'' to a pale reflection of ``Double Indemnity'' or ``Body Heat'' -- only with two out-of-shape, middle-age guys fighting over a vapid lollipop-tart.

Eew and eewier, I know. But ``Pretty Persuasion'' proved that this hateful kind of stuff could be salvaged by extremely clever writing, an exceptionally talented young actress (Reed's ``Thirteen'' co-star Evan Rachel Wood, ironically enough), and lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-repugnant satire that dares to get real and specific, rather than remain tabloid tattle generic.

Little of such craftiness can be found in ``Mini's First Time.''

Bob Strauss (818) 713-3670


MINI'S FIRST TIME - One and one half stars

(R: sex, violence, drug use, language, children in jeopardy)

Starring: Nikki Reed, Alec Baldwin, Carrie-Anne Moss, Luke Wilson, Jeff Goldblum.

Director: Nick Guthe.

Running time: 1 hr. 31 min.

Playing: Pacific 5, Sherman Oaks; Playhouse 7, Pasadena; Criterion 6, Santa Monica; ArcLight, Hollywood; Palme D'Or, Palm Springs.

In a nutshell: Hollywood Hills Lolita manipulates her stepfather into felonious behavior for kicks. Somehow, the movie still manages to be boring.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 14, 2006

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