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Case Number 12798: Small Claims Court

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Sydney White

Universal // 2007 // 108 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // January 22nd, 2008

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All Rise...

Appellate Judge Tom Becker could have been mean, but he decided to take the heigh-ho road.

The Charge

Freshman year is no fairy tale.

The Case

Sydney White (Amanda Bynes, Hairspray) is starting her freshman year of college at her mother's alma mater. She'll also be pledging her mother's sorority, the Kappas, and she's ensured entry because she is a "legacy." It's important to Sydney that she does well, since her mother died some years ago, and Sydney feels that by following in her footsteps, she will keep Mom's memory alive.

Unfortunately, the head of the Kappas is Rachel Witchburn (Sara Paxton, Aquamarine), an evil and imperious blonde who seems to have the whole school under her well-manicured thumb. Rachel despises the good-hearted, brunette Sydney and is appalled when Tyler Prince (Matt Long, Ghost Rider), Rachel's former boyfriend and president of his fraternity, takes a shine to the new girl. So Rachel humiliates Sydney and drums her out of the sorority, leaving her homeless.

Sydney goes from Greek to geek when some, uh, dorks she's befriended take her in. There are seven of them, and they live in a rundown cottage-like building called The Vortex. They give Sydney shelter; she fixes up the house (her dad's a plumber and Syd's quite handy with tools) and becomes a kind of den mother to this pasty pack of misfits. When Sydney decides to try to break the fraternity and sorority power base by having a geek run against (incumbent) Rachel for student body president, the dorks find themselves cautiously toeing the waters of campus life.

Despite Sydney's social fall-from-grace, the handsome Prince pursues her. But Sydney White and her seven dorks is a package deal, and soon, frat boys and nerd boys are bonding over video games and keggers, and everyone is happy.

Well, not quite everyone. The wicked Witchburn is getting heartburn at all this happy commingling, and she's not about to sit back with a smile and a song while Sydney White becomes fairest of them all.

Sydney White is an updated, teen-oriented re-telling of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, with an online Hot-or-Not site standing in for the magic mirror and destruction wrought by a poisoned Apple computer. It's cute and goofy, with the expected uplifting message, and except for one element, just fine for the 'tween set.

Amanda Bynes does a good job as the tomboyish Sydney, playing her as a kind of everygirl. Her spunkiness wears thin after a while, but that's the way the character is written. Non-blonde junior high school girls everywhere will be rooting for her, though if they've spent just one evening watching the Family Channel, they'll know they don't have to root too hard. As her Prince, Matt Long is all wholesome good looks and zero sexual threat. When this frat boy takes Sydney to work with him at a soup kitchen for their first date, we know his intentions are not just honorable, they're positively beatific.

The dorks are your basic Star Wars/Lord of the Rings/computer-loving nerd types. Here and there, we get a Disney-dwarf trait; for instance, the first dork we meet is sneezing, another sleeps a lot, and they're all pretty dopey.

Sara Paxton is entertaining as the nasty Rachel. Sure, it's a one-dimensional character that elicits no sympathy, but what's an updated fairy tale without someone to hiss at?

For a movie that seems aimed at a "family friendly" audience, Sydney White loses its way with some occasional and jarring vulgarity. Now, clearly, this film was not made for anyone who has ever been near a college, since this is one of those universities where there is only one class (which apparently the entire school attends), no one seems to be having sex (or even light petting), and a drunken frat party looks like it's being hosted by a youth ministry. This is a 13-year-old's vision of college, so it's unnerving when characters start calling each other "bitch" or "ho," use terms like "douche baggery," or hold up one of Sydney's shirts and announce, "There were boobs in here." (In fairness, we did know there'd be a scene of the seven dorks walking together, seeing a female character, and saying, "Hi ho!") I really don't know why the filmmakers didn't check themselves and go for the PG rating instead of the PG-13, since Sydney White would otherwise be right at home playing on a family cable channel.

The technical qualities are fine. We get a sharp, clear picture and a distortion-free 5.1 surround track that gives a good rendition of the peppy-pop soundtrack. There's a whole bunch of little featurettes that consist mainly of the cast members talking about what a great time they had working with each other (all scored to that peppy-pop soundtrack), a gag reel of people blowing lines, some deleted scenes, and a theatrical trailer.

Sydney White is no great shakes, but it's not a great loss, either. It's predictable and silly, but fun in its way.

Guilty of dorkiness. But then, who isn't?

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 78

Perp Profile

Studio: Universal
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 108 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
• Comedy
• Romantic Comedies
• Teen

Distinguishing Marks

• Gag reel
• Deleted scenes
• "The Original Dork"
• "Sydney White and her Prince"
• "Meet the Dorks"
• "Kappas Forever"
• "The Skooze"
• "Welcome to the Vortex"
• Theatrical Trailer

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