“I can do this. I am a dude. I am a hunky dude! I’m a badass hunky dude!”
Justin’s rating: Remember kids: only beautiful girls make weirdly asexual boy-things
Justin’s feview: To think about it, there’s quite likely enough gender-bending movies to qualify for its own Netflix category. Whether it be the Wayans brothers creeping us out as White Chicks, Tom Hanks showing us how he can be a bosom buddy, or Barbara Streisand trying to prove that she can play both a man AND a member of the human race, Hollywood loves to dig out the old chestnut of pretending to be a member of the opposite sex for a convoluted purpose.
So why engage in She’s The Man, considering how it’s really a point-for-point remake of both Just One of the Guys and Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, how it seems molded to fit the new demographic-appeasing flights of fancy that Hilary Duff pioneered, and how the title straight out gives me hives?
Two reasons, I shall give. Like Yoda, I shall talk. Smug little green peanut, he was.
The first is Amanda Bynes, who — not having feasted on Nickelodeon for the past fifteen years — I’m less than familiar with. I underestimated her by assuming that she was just another Duff-Lohan marketing sensation, the kind that looks good in both wholesome teenie bopper rags and shameless Maxim spreads but has the brain capacity of a poodle. What blew me away was not how she looks, but how she could make herself look. Bynes isn’t just a pretty face squeezing into a “comedy-romance” role to keep her name brand recognition fresh, she’s an honest-to-God comedienne.
In reviewing her biography, I’m not surprised to discover that she’s trained under both Arsenio Hall and Richard Pryor… oh wait, I’m a little bit surprised. Does Arsenio train people to do anything other than wave fists and make a hooting noise like a crowd of deaf owls? Still, as Bynes plays Viola, a tomboyish soccer player who disguises herself as her own brother to get a shot at playing against the school that rejected her. Through this, she makes both the “girl” and “girl as boy” roles entertaining and hilarious. She busts out goofy faces, has an exceptional talent for hitting the right beats, and plays her character(s) dorky yet sincere. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a young actress have such an obviously good time chewing with her mouth open at a debutante luncheon, just to peeve the richies off.
Double-plus: At no point does Viola crumple up her face and ask us to feel sorry for a girl about to cry (ack ack), nor does she descend into the awkward lingo that Hollywood writers try to pass for however teens speak these days.*
She definitely makes this movie. As great as Joyce Hyser was in Just One of the Guys, I’ll give the slight edge to Amanda Bynes for willing to be a bit more of an eye-rolling nerd as “Sebastian.” It’s been a while since I’ve seen a teenage actress own a comedy role so perfectly that I cannot praise her enough. I really hope she keeps on in the same vein.
The second reason why this movie is of worth is that the monkeys hacking out the script managed to pull off more than a few moments that defied my expectations. Although we see dozens of high school “comedies” pumped out every year and they’re mostly considered to be fluff, it’s hard to do good fluff right. The music has to be spot-on, yet not distracting. The characters have to be lovable, or at least memorable. The dialogue should demonstrate a variety of wit and intelligence. And there should be comedy in my cup ‘o cinematic coffee, not just teenage angst in the midst of a mythical land devoid of pimples and puberty.
Defying the odds, She’s The Man blends just the right elements to make a shake that goes down smoothly. I found myself laughing — and not just to practice my Santa routine for Christmas, either — first out of surprise that something was hilarious, then on a regular basis as this film threw quirky (almost cartoony) characters into slapsticky situations, and massaged the scenes until it all came out right. There’s a convoluted mix of romantic entanglements, which are even more screwed up when you throw a gender-bending nut into the mix. There’s a makeover scene, a training montage, the Big Game, David Cross with a bushy fake beard, the Gay Best Friend, a giant armadillo and a geeky evil nemesis that’s straight out of any ’80s flick. And it has the British hooligan from Eurotrip playing the scariest soccer coach ever.
Yeah, so it’s drowning in bad clichés. That doesn’t mean they didn’t have fun with it. It really made my day. I think it might just make yours.
* Actually, teens no longer communicate vocally. Their speech has devolved while their thumb muscle reflexes have increased a thousand-fold through text messaging.
- Tampons can stop nosebleeds.
- David Cross! Woot! The beard does great things on him.
- Bologna is 38% hoof.
- Viola chomping through her lunch
- That IS a lot of nudity at a soccer game. Of course, we don’t see any of it.