Did you have high expectations for “The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story,” Lifetime’s biopic chronicling the behind-the-scenes antics of Bayside High’s students? If so, they probably screeched to a halt upon seeing the finished product.
The “Saved by the Bell” biopic, spearheaded by Screech actor Dustin Diamond and disavowed by other cast members of the 1990s teen comedy, aired on Lifetime last night, and the reviews are … well, “mixed” would be a nice way of putting it. Let’s just say that on a scale of “so excited” to “so scared,” your expectations should be closer to the latter end of the spectrum.
If you didn’t catch Lifetime’s “Saved by the Bell” movie, don’t worry; these reviews will tell you everything you need to know.
“So it turns out ’The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story’ is really just Lifetime for ’Sharknado.’ The network opted not to screen the movie in advance, presumably assuming the nostalgia/live-tweeting factor would only be undermined by the realization this wasn’t so much a movie as a music montage interrupted by reenactments from a mediocre but improbably long-running ‘90s Saturday-morning show. Told primarily from the perspective of Dustin Diamond (who doubles as a producer), the project explores the age-old insecurities of young actors and challenges of sudden stardom, but in such a tedious, empty way the bell couldn’t come soon enough.” — Brian Lowry, Variety
“The draw of ’The Unauthorized Saved By The Bell Story’ is not to learn more about the behind the scenes origins of the show (we have Wikipedia for that) but to be ’shocked’ by the scandals and joke about how the coked-up orgies ruined your perception of a beloved childhood show. Lifetime waters down everything significantly and turns a gleeful hate-watch into a yawn-inducing mess. There are definitely plenty of things to hate/love about the movie: the clunky dialogue, the laughable acting, the constant reminders of when the show takes place (including a reference to the ’Seinfeld’ pilot in which an executive deems it ’too Jewish, too New York’), realizing how annoying it is that both Mark-Paul and Tiffani-Amber went by two first names, the fact that Lifetime must have blown the budget on the soundtrack and therefore could only afford to hire a blind casting director, and the dedication to mimicking some stylistic choices from the show (the aspect ratio when recreating ’SBTB’ scenes, the fuzzy pink border around a horrifying fantasy sequence, and the time freezes). At points, the movie is the fun kind of bad but mostly, in comparison to many other Lifetime movies, it’s lacking.” — Pilot Viruet, The A.V. Club
“Was it good? No. Was it bad? That’s a harder question to answer, but only because ‘yes’ has more letters in it than ‘no,’ and typing is hard after all the cookies we’ve eaten today. We will say, however, that we enjoyed watching it immensely, and that enjoyment was only mostly due to the excellent music (Oh hey, Bell Biv DeVoe). The ’Unauthorized Saved By the Bell Story’ told the scandalous tale of everything that apparently went on behind the scenes over the course of four seasons, from relationships to drinking to drug use. It was, as we already said, quite scandalous, and many a revelation left us crying for the early nineties, when we were young and had no knowledge of things like marijuana and the movie ’Showgirls.'” — Lauren Piester, E! Online
“While the movie is currently being destroyed, I actually really enjoyed it. I thought it wasn’t meant to destroy the legacy of ’Saved By The Bell,’ but offer a glimpse into what was really happening. … The parallels between the movie and the actual show were not lost on anyone. While I thought some of the ‘new’ cast did a good job, the acting by the others was bad. I do believe that this was done intentionally. … While others have attacked Dustin Diamond for going after the cast, I actually thought he was quite respectful and really didn’t go over the line in any of his portrayals.” — Murtz Jaffer, Inside Pulse
“’The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story’ reeked of offensive biopic cliches that were perhaps most offensive in their bias toward one very skewed point of view. One actor’s trouble fitting in was blamed largely through cheap shots on the personality flaws of his cohorts. It’s very evident that the one who emerged a winner only did so by hiding behind this horrendous and unmoving time-waster, which managed to make it very clear which cast member was the real loser here.” — Marc Snetiker, Entertainment Weekly
What did you think of Lifetime’s “Saved by the Bell” movie?