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In the case of She’s The Man it’s hard to tell who is dumber. On the one hand you have the director, screenwriters and actors who have crafted the worst ever teen movie version of a Shakespeare play. A series of asinine characters engaging in unintelligent plotlines, the movie is a cutesy comedic nightmare that seems only nominally inspired by William’s work. On the other hand you have America’s teeny bopper youth. Raised on a steady diet of Hilary Duff, Freddie Prinze Jr. and Kenan and Kel, they somehow find this sort of schleppy project appealing. I guess the two groups deserve each other, but I find myself wanting to warn the youth that watching this movie could have the same effects on their brain as sniffing glue.
Viola is a high school senior and an all star soccer player. Her prep school girls’ soccer program has been cut from the athletic line up due to lack of interest. Although we’re lead to believe that Viola is an intelligent person, she fails to understand how not having enough girls to play would be grounds for canceling the team. In protest she decides to go out for the boys’ team instead. Upon the inevitable rejection she launches the most absurd plan possible to prove that she’s just as good a soccer player as any guy.
Viola’s twin brother Sebastian, who mysteriously attends a completely different prep school, decides to skip class and take off to London for a few weeks (made possible thanks to the ignorance of the world’s dumbest parents). Viola takes the opportunity to get her guy-groove on and goes in Sebastian’s place, dressing up as a guy and trying out for their boys’ soccer team. Discovering that the guys don’t take it easy on you if they think you’re one of them, Viola gets knocked around and is lucky to earn a spot on the team’s second string. All she has to do now is actually figure out how to be as good a soccer player as the boys and not get caught in her cross-dressing act. The rest of the film is one predictable gender-bending gag after the next mixed together with mistaken-identity romantic sub plots that remotely resemble trimmings from Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”.
Of course, the equating of “Twelfth Night” to She’s The Man probably has Shakespeare rolling in his grave and English teachers everywhere weeping aloud. No doubt from now on half of all high school book reports about the play will include whole paragraphs about an epic soccer game. In the spirit of the Bard’s tendency to lace his plays with innuendo, the film tries to do the same with miserable results. Toss in the fact that to prove their identities to everyone at the game, Sebastian drops trou mid field and Viola lifts her shirt like she’s after Mardi Gras beads and the whole thing begins to feel like a National Lampoon movie aimed at teenage audiences.
The cast is comprised mainly of twenty-somethings playing high school teenagers. I suppose it’s easier to get older actors to feel comfortable walking around set wearing clothing better suited to Tijuana Spring Break than a prep school dorm hall. Still, it’s silly to see so many grown actors playing roles as two-dimensional teenager characters trying miserably to engage in pseudo-mature relationships. Sure, the fact that they look hot and act stupid is going to win points with the Abercrombie and Fitch crowd but is being a Paul Walker protégé really all that desirable?
As the cross-dressing Viola, Amanda Bynes lands most of the film’s few funny moments but fritters them away with a repetitive comedic style that feels borrowed straight from her television show performances. On the other end of the spectrum, David Cross, who plays the school’s headmaster, makes the most of his precious few scenes but his talent is utterly wasted on such a low caliber film.
Buried somewhere in the story is an effort to send a message about the importance of personality over looks. Unfortunately it feels more like an afterthought than a centerpiece for the movie and the silly comedy bulldozes right over it. Beyond that there’s very little to salvage from the film. I chock it up as Hollywood figuring out how to tap into the bottomless well that is the gullible American teenager’s weekly allowance.