Skip to main content

Crush review: Charming teen love story anyone can relate to

Reviewing a modern teenage romantic comedy like Hulu’s Crush is a balancing act for any critic a few generations separated from their high-school years. On one side, the world is so much different now for teens than it was 10 or 20 years ago, and story elements intimately familiar to today’s young adults might seem unrealistic or unrelatable to older audiences. Criticizing a film because it doesn’t reflect your experience is problematic (at best), so it can put some reviewers on shaky ground right from the start.

On the other side, good films find a way to make their themes and message resonate with everyone, no matter when you were born, where you live, or who you love. They take something personal and make it universal by building on emotions and experiences we all share in one form or another. And fortunately, Crush does exactly that by delivering a fun, funny, and wonderfully sincere story about love and how we learn to recognize it when we find it.

Rowan Blanchard as Paige Evans sits in a chair in the principal's office, in a scene from Crush.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Directed by Sammi Cohen (Hollywood Darlings) from a script by Kirsten King and Casey Rackham, Crush casts Rowan Blanchard (The Goldbergs) as Paige, an aspiring artist whose crush on a classmate ends up pushing her to become a reluctant member of the school’s track team. The decision creates some unexpected complications when her friendly relationship with a teammate develops into something more — something different from anything she’s felt before.

While the film’s basic premise might lend itself to the sort of tame, candy-colored spin on young love you’d expect to see on the Disney Channel, Crush doesn’t take long to establish itself in the world of casual sex, recreational drugs, and ubiquitous social media that real-world teenagers inhabit. Rather than going the raunchy route, however, Crush offers a cast of teenage characters spilling over with overactive hormones and sexual opportunity but also equipped with a sort of blunt self-awareness and selective maturity that keeps them out of too much trouble.

Blanchard carries the lead role well, finding just the right mix of painful awkwardness, precocious wisdom, and unearned confidence in whatever plan she concocts — whether it involves her love life or her artistic aspirations. Paige is easy to cheer for, even when she’s embracing every stereotype of an overly dramatic teenager, and Blanchard sells the funny moments with as much commitment as the film’s more emotional beats.

Auli'i Cravalho and Rowan Blanchard talk to someone at a party in a scene from Crush.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Portraying A.J., the girl Paige ultimately falls for, Auli’i Cravalho offers a nice reminder that she’s so much more than a beautiful voice. The Moana star looks perfectly comfortable breaking out of the Disney mold and embracing more mature themes, and her chemistry with Blanchard never feels forced or artificial.

Although Crush keeps its focus on its teenage characters, the adults offer plenty of fun performances, too. Megan Mullally (Will & Grace) is fun to watch in any comedic performance, and the sharp humor of Crush plays to her strengths in all the right ways as she portrays Paige’s over-sharing but eternally-supportive mother.

Clever, heartwarming, and wonderfully straightforward at a time when many romantic comedies try to cast too wide a net or squeeze in a few too many story threads than they can handle, Crush is a tremendously satisfying film that feels bigger than it is because of its talented cast and filmmaker, plus its smart script. It’s also a nice reminder that even when a film initially seems like it isn’t made for you, it can still end up speaking to you in surprising and rewarding ways.

Starring Rowan Blanchard, Crush premieres April 29 on Hulu streaming service.

Crush (2022)

Drama, Romance, Comedy
Rowan Blanchard, Auli'i Cravalho, Isabella Ferreira
Directed by
Sammi Cohen
Watch on Hulu

Editors' Recommendations

Movie images and data from:
Rick Marshall
A veteran journalist with more than two decades of experience covering local and national news, arts and entertainment, and…
My Best Friend’s Exorcism review: Fighting mean girls (and meaner demons)
Elsie Fisher and Amiah Miller sit on a bed in a scene from My Best Friend's Exorcism.

The teenage years can be scary, even without the threat of demonic possession. Throw a sinister supernatural element into the mix, and the experience becomes, well ... only slightly more terrifying, actually.

That's one takeaway from director Damon Thomas' My Best Friend's Exorcism, which delivers a scary-fun paranormal thriller filtered through a coming-of-age drama about two teenage girls in the 1980s whose lifelong friendship is threatened when one of them becomes the unwilling host of an infernal entity. That this supernatural encounter occurs while the girls are navigating young adulthood turns the typical social hellscape of high school into something more sinister, and tests their friendship in unexpected and terrifying ways.

Read more
Hocus Pocus 2 review: that old black magic, new again
Sarah Jessica Parker, Bette Midler, and Kathy Najimy stand in a convenience store in a scene from Hocus Pocus 2.

Director Kenny Ortega's 1993 film Hocus Pocus wasn't a hit when it was first released, but history has been kind to it, and turned it into a Halloween tradition of sorts for children of a particular generation (and their children, in many cases). And because this is a time when everything old is eventually new again -- particularly if it's gained the sort of post-release popularity Hocus Pocus has enjoyed -- Disney has decided to bring the sorcerous Sanderson sisters back for another adventure in Hocus Pocus 2.

Hocus Pocus 2 conjures up original cast members Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy as Winifred, Sarah, and Mary Sanderson, respectively, the trio of witches who were accidentally resurrected in the 1993 film and terrorized the town of Salem before being defeated by a group of precocious teenagers and a magical black cat. This time around, the film features Step Up and 27 Dresses director Anne Fletcher behind the camera, and follows another group of Salem teenagers who unwittingly unleash the Sanderson sisters on the town again, 29 years after the events of the original film.

Read more
Entergalactic review: a simple but charming animated romance
Three dudes cheer on a rooftop in Entergalactic.

Entergalactic isn’t like most other animated movies that you’ll see this year — or any year, for that matter. The film, which was created by Scott Mescudi a.k.a. Kid Cudi and executive producer Kenya Barris, was originally intended to be a TV series. Now, it’s set to serve as a 92-minute companion to Cudi’s new album of the same name. That means Entergalactic not only attempts to tell its own story, one that could have easily passed as the plot of a Netflix original rom-com, but it does so while also featuring several sequences that are set to specific Cudi tracks.

Beyond the film’s musical elements, Entergalactic is also far more adult than viewers might expect it to be. The film features several explicit sex scenes and is as preoccupied with the sexual politics of modern-day relationships as it is in, say, street art or hip-hop. While Entergalactic doesn’t totally succeed in blending all of its disparate elements together, the film’s vibrantly colorful aesthetic and infectiously romantic mood make it a surprisingly sweet, imaginative tour through a fairytale version of New York City.

Read more