Finally destined to mediocrity

“Final Destination 3″New Line CinemaDirected by James WongWritten by Glen Morgan and James WongStarring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ryan Merriman, Amanda Crew, Kris Lemche and Alexz JohnsonRated R/115 minuesOpens Friday, Feb. 10Two-and-a-half out of four stars

Some people-if not all people-hit an age when they start to resent youth. Teenaged youth, specifically. It happens sooner for some (mid-20s) and later for others (after they have children). The over-70 crowd has been known to bitterly wag walking canes.

The freedom and beauty and hedonism that hot, young things flaunt in the face of full-time jobs, thinning hair and committed relationships can be so desirable, you just want to sic an ax-wielding maniac on them. Right?

Hey, don’t look at me.

Perhaps this mentality explains why so many hard-working, 30- to 40-year-old, male screenwriters in Hollywood like to slice and dice and otherwise obliterate the under-20 set in movies.

It’s gruesome (and giddy) enough when Jason or Freddy Krueger do the bloody deed (“There will be no pre-marital sex on my watch!” they say, pre-stab), but when teenagers are done off by some cruelly ironic twist of fate, as they are in “Final Destination 3,” it’s all the more satisfying.

I’m not going to waste any time talking about the acting or the dialogue in a movie in which Death is a cold and calculating force, seeking out teenagers who evaded it once already. If the filmmakers had actually animated Death as an undulating stream of evil (think of the overpowering odors that snake their way into the noses of cartoon cats), it wouldn’t be much sillier.

The “Final Destination” series is founded on the idea that a dark, especially moody teenager has a premonition about a deadly disaster (a malfunctioning roller coaster in this case), freaks out, gets thrown off the plane/interstate/amusement park ride-along with 10 or so others-and then tearfully watches the disaster unfold from the sidelines.

Some would count these kids as lucky-but hold that thought. Death was expecting 10 for dinner and doesn’t like it when he has leftovers. So begins the hunt, as Death catches up with those who escaped, dispatching them in ways that make you wonder how often he plays Mouse Trap.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays the moody teenager, Ryan Merriman plays the hunky guy who understands the moody teenager and a slew of other hot, young things play hot, young things who will surely die by the end credits.

“Final Destination 3” is well made, and some of the deaths really are ingenious in their domino-effect structure (a pair of hot, young sunbathers become very hot, young sunbathers).

Freshness is all this franchise lacks. The first one was tricky fun, but part three is a little rickety-just like that malfunctioning roller coaster of doom.

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