Lionsgate // 1999 // 96 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // January 19th, 2012
These two opposites attract...but EVERYONE'S trying to keep them apart!
Before we talk about the 1999 teen comedy She's All That, consider this list of movies: Down to You. Boys and Girls. Get Over It! Outside Providence. Also: Summer Catch, Bring It On, Loser, Save the Last Dance, Drive Me Crazy, Whatever It Takes, She's the Man, Sugar and Spice, The Perfect Score, John Tucker Must Die, Road Trip, Eurotrip...the list goes on and on and on. For better or (mostly) worse, it's possible that none of these movies would have existed without the success of She's All That.
The teen movie had been mostly dormant since its heyday in the '80s; sure, the occasional entry like Clueless popped up every couple of years, but the marketplace was hardly flooded the way it once had been. That all changed with She's All That, a movie that caught Hollywood off guard when it opened in January of 1999 to surprisingly high box office on its way to a $63 million gross -- more than six times its budget. And, so, the second wave of the teen movie genre was unleashed, and for several years it seemed there was a new entry opening every week. The fact that the quality was considerably lower than its '80s counterpart -- very few of the "second wave" movies are remembered even 10 years later, much less 30 -- meant that it was a fairly short-lived movement.
Revisiting She's All That in 2012, it's hard to believe this movie spawned a hundred imitators. Ultimately, though, the resurgence of the teen movie in the early 2000s had very little to do with artistic merit. It wasn't so much that She's All That was a great movie -- it isn't -- but it provided a workable business model: simple premise (often borrowed from other sources), unknown young stars (read: inexpensive) and a built-in audience. Because if one is actually examining the quality of the movie, She's All That is a movie without an original idea in its head -- a kind of mash-up between Pygmalion, Can't Buy Me Love and Pretty in Pink. If you're a sucker for the teen movie genre like I am, it's inoffensive enough, helped by a cast that's pleasant but utterly vanilla. Difficult to believe that for several years in the early 2000s, Hollywood attempted to convince us that (based on the success of She's All That) Freddie Prinze Jr. and Rachael Leigh Cook were movie stars; audiences, of course, remained unconvinced. I wish either of their roles had been cast with a more interesting actor, because I suspect the movie would be remembered for being more than generic if Laney really was geeky and smart and unique or if Zack had been capable of more than two expressions. Sadly, it was not meant to be. Matthew Lillard comes closest to giving an amusing performance, but even that ranges from a funny and well-observed take on reality TV "stars" to the usual ridiculous and uncomfortable mugging for which Lillard is best known. He, of course, would reteam with Freddie Prinze Jr. in Wing Commander, Summer Catch and both Scooby-Doo movies, making them the Lemmon and Matthau of horrible young people.
As for the movie itself? There's not a whole lot to say. Freddie Prinze Jr. (Scooby-Doo) stars as Zack Siler, the big man on campus of his high school who's recently been dumped by his girlfriend (Jodi Lyn O'Keefe, Halloween H20). Recovering from his recent heartbreak, Zack makes a bet with one of his football teammates that he can turn any girl in school into the prom queen. His mark ends up being Laney Boggs (Rachael Leigh Cook of the underrated Josie and the Pussycats), a smart art student who's an outcast at the school. Will Zack and Laney fall in love? Will she find out about the bet? Will they get together anyway? Has anyone ever seen a movie before?
She's All That is the kind of movie for which people have a lot of affection, even though it's not particularly good -- I suspect it has more to do with seeing it at a certain age, or watching it rerun countless times on cable. That's not to say that the movie is terrible. It isn't. It's reasonably charming and sweet and not very mean-spirited, even though its central premise is kind of ugly. There's a scene that inexplicably goes for gross-out laughs, because someone had seen There's Something About Mary, and that's kind of awful. Also, there's a big dance number to Fatboy Slim's "The Rockafeller Skank," which is apparently a big point of contention even among people who like the movie. Really? There is an audience that can accept the reality that Rachael Leigh Cook is a dowdy plainy Janey ponytail and that Freddie Prinze Jr. has charisma but not that all of the students could break into the same choreographed dance? One has to consider She's All That as the Miramax version of a Beach Party movie (especially since this was the movie that turned them into a modern-day AIP). In that context, the dance sequence makes sense -- and, to tell the truth, the movie could have used more of this kind of energetic break from real life. It also explains why Usher shows up as the dance DJ. He's this movie's "Little" Stevie Wonder.
She's All That arrives on Blu-ray (finally!) courtesy of Lionsgate, the studio that's now handling the old Miramax catalogue and doing a pretty good job of it. The film, presented in its original 1.85 widescreen aspect ratio and in full 1080p, looks surprisingly good in high def. The image is very bright and colorful, with strong detail throughout. There are several instances of softness and a few inconsistencies, visually speaking (things get kind of muddled from time to time), which keep it from being a truly first-rate transfer. Still, the demands of the movie aren't much and should keep fans more than satisfied. The lossless 5.1 DTS-HD master audio track is surprisingly lively, with excellent clarity on the dialogue and strong music cues. This could have been phoned in by Lionsgate and everyone would have expected as much, but proves to be a really solid audio presentation.
Even better is the fact that director Robert Iscove has recorded a brand new commentary track for this Blu-ray release. Obviously, such a thing should not be oversold -- it is, after all, Robert Iscove and not exactly Steven Spielberg breaking his commentary boycott, but, again, it's more than was expected from a catalogue release of a standard entry in a disreputable genre. Iscove's track isn't really anything special, providing the usual production background and a few interesting anecdotes with frequent gaps of silence, but that fact that it's been included at all shows a degree of attention to the release above and beyond what's expected. The only other extras included are the movie's trailer and a music video for "Kiss Me" from one-hit wonders Sixpence None the Richer, who wouldn't even be the musical footnote they wound up being if not for She's All That. You're welcome, music lovers.
A good indicator that the teen movie resurgence of the 2000s was destined for a quick death is the fact that the entire movement was parodied in Not Another Teen Movie in 2001 -- just two years after She's All That kicked things off. And while the parody has a whole lot of problems, the way that it takes down She's All That pretty much makes it impossible to ever take the movie seriously again (assuming you had done so in the first place). What the movie will probably best be remembered for is turning Miramax from an Oscar-chasing studio of "prestige" movies into purveyors of teen schlock and genre pictures. As Kevin Smith put it in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back: "They made She's All That, and it all went downhill from there."
Fluff, but watchable fluff.
Review content copyright © 2012 Patrick Bromley; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 1999
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Music Video