When Judge Neal Masri was in high school, he pretended to be a girl pretending to be a boy just to get on the soccer team.
Everybody has a secret.
Another film joins the pantheon of cross-dressing movie classics like Yentl, To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar, Just One of the Guys, and Some Like It Hot (well, OK, they're not all classics).
Facts of the Case
Viola (Amanda Bynes, Big Fat Liar) is a star soccer player at her high school. When the school cuts the girls soccer program, she is crushed. Opportunity knocks when Viola's brother Sebastian (James Kirk, X2) decides to skip out on the first two weeks at his new school. Viola decides to pose as him to join the boys' soccer team.
Complications obviously ensue. Viola soon finds herself falling for her roommate Duke (Channing Tatum, Coach Carter). Eventually, Viola finds that there's more to hiding her identity than wrapping an ACE bandage around her breasts. Love triangles, romantic complications, and spurned exes all conspire to make Viola's charade harder than she thought. Things eventually come to a head when Viola's new school must play the boy's team from her old school in the big soccer game.
She's The Man is loosely based upon Shakespeare's Twelfth Night (emphasis on loosely). The girl-pretending-to-be-a-boy angle and a few of the character names are just about the only connections to the play. I guess the lovers caught in a web of mistaken identity and misunderstanding are another commonality with Billy Shakespeare's play, but that's also a commonality with any given episode of Three's Company.
The gender-bending angle provides a slightly different twist on what is, at heart, a pretty typical teen comedy. Following the obligatory but mercifully brief musical makeover montage, Viola becomes a fairly unconvincing guy. Oddly, it appears she wears more makeup in her masculine guise than she does as a female. A bit of unsolicited advice to all the ladies out there—when you're pretending to be a guy, lay off the rouge and eyeliner a bit.
You can probably predict the situations Viola will face. Of course, she has to be very careful about the locker room showers (though it is a bit mystifying that she is so surprised that the team is expected to shower together). And it's only a matter of time before the dreaded shirts vs. skins problem pops up at practice. She also finds that one of the hottest girls in school falls in love with her male alter ego. Pretty much the stuff a cross-dressing high schooler would expect to face I guess.
The film is mainly a vehicle for Nickelodeon cutie turned teen ingénue Amanda Bynes. She gives a spunky performance and demonstrates a great deal more comic timing than peers Lindsey Lohan or Hillary Duff. Her likable presence is the glue that holds the film together. The story does not break any new ground, but the teen movie formula is followed slavishly enough to make the film fairly entertaining.
The movie is helped by a strong group of adult supporting players. Julie Haggerty (Airplane!) plays Viola's shrill but well intentioned mother. The peerless David Cross gives a funny but familiar performance by doing a riff on his Arrested Development character. Former British professional footballer Vinnie Jones (Snatch) is along for the ride as a no-nonsense soccer coach oblivious to Viola's big secret.
She's The Man doesn't push the boundaries of its PG-13 rating. The movie never pursues the more risqué angles inherent in this material. In the Halcyon days of my youth, a movie like this would probably have been rated R—a bit more in the Porky's vein. It would have also been full of 35-year-olds playing teenagers instead of the late-teen early twenties gang we have here.
The bright and sunny color palette is conveyed well by this disc. The image is crisp and clear. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is mainly music-driven and the pop/dance soundtrack will get your subwoofer pumping nicely.
There are two audio commentary tracks provided. The first features the principal actors and director Andy Fickman. They were recorded as a group and are an amiable bunch. They remain talkative throughout. There is also a great deal of the mutual admiration these group commentaries generally have. The track is pleasant but not that informative. The second track features producers Lauren Schuler Donner and writer-producer Ewan Leslie. As you might imagine, their track is a bit more informative and has more of a behind-the-scenes feel. They also allow a few more gaps of silence than the actor/director track. Lastly, we have a "Shakespeare, Soccer and Such" text trivia track. It covers everything from the date of Amanda Bynes's birthday to the earth-shattering revelations.
Nine deleted scenes are provided and playable with or without commentary. They are pretty inconsequential but some do provide a chuckle. For a light comedy like this, it is generally preferable to keep things moving. It was probably wise to cut the scenes. Several featurettes, a gag reel, photo album, and a music video round out what turns out be a surprisingly packed disc.
She's the Man does provide a fairly innocuous bit of teen comedy fun. Teen girls will likely appreciate a solid grrl power message (that message being tempered by the fact that every girl in the film looks like a teen model). I am from the school of thought that suspension of disbelief is absolutely necessary to enjoy most movies. A bit more of that suspension is required here. If one can overlook the more outrageous aspects of the plot, there are worse people than Amanda Bynes with whom to spend a couple hours.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The writers of this film are also responsible for another Shakespeare inspired teen movie called 10 Things I Hate About You. The similarities are so passing that they really don't need to be giving Shakespeare any writing credits. Somehow, I don't think The Bard will be updating his resume with these works just yet.
She's The Man achieves exactly what it sets out to do. It's a silly teen comedy confection that, like most confections, will be forgotten and leaving one hungry for more almost immediately.
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