|She's the Man
2006 - PG-13 - 105 Mins.
|Director: Andy Fickman
|Producer: Ewan Leslie, Jack Leslie and Lauren Shuler Donner
|Written By: Ewan Leslie, Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith
|Starring: Amanda Bynes, Channing Tatum, Laura Ramsey, Robert Hoffman and Alex Breckenridge
|Review by: Bill King
|Official Site: www.shestheman-themovie.com/
Call it 'Just One of the Guys Redux' or 'Twelfth Night 2006' or whatever, but 'She's the Man' is much better than it has any right to be, and that can be attributed to the little details tucked in the corners to give it some appeal beyond the restrictions of its story arc. It's predictable, that's for sure, but I liked how the writers included some clever little bits here and there, and the film gets an enormous boost with a likable performance by Amanda Bynes. The movie is unpretentious and undemanding, but it has its moments.
We have to go back. I forgot my sock.
The movie is based on William Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night," in that it updates the settings and characters of the original story to a modern time and location. That puts the movie in the same group with 'She's All That,' 'Clueless,' 'O' and many others that have taken liberties with literary classics. Still, we can't help but question some of these productions, because, regardless of the source material, they still resemble other movies before them. The key, therefore, is to inject some kind of uniqueness into each film. That's the first step to being successful. The rest of the steps involve the actors delivering engaging performances.
In that sense, Amanda Bynes delivers the best possible performance this kind of movie requires. Her character, Viola, passes herself off as her brother to enroll at his private school to make the soccer team. That way, she can go up against her old school for canceling its own soccer program and not allowing girls on the team. Viola is clearly not up to the task. From day one, she finds difficulty in emulating boys, right down to the oversexed attitude towards females. What gives her the greatest difficulty is her perceived view of guys. Instead of trying to be normal, she behaves like a stereotypical horny male, which attracts exasperated looks from the boys around her.
It's this infusion of machismo that really helps her cause, in a way. She wears a wig and talks with a deep voice, or at least tries to speak with one, but anyone should be able to see that something isn't right about this person. All doubts are swept aside, though, when he/she starts talking about females in an objectified manner. That's usually enough to turn attention away from her feminine appearance. Sex is the universal language of teenage boys, after all.
Regardless of her speech, Viola comes across as a nice person. She only wants revenge against the coach who wouldn't sign her up to play soccer, so she implements this irrational plan in hopes of gaining some kind of satisfaction out of it. Her ruse, in the meantime, provides for some hilarious scenes in which Viola tries to protect her secret. She successfully explains why she keeps tampons with her, and, when required to remove her shirt on more than one occasion, she implements some quick thinking to remain decent.
In a biology class, Viola meets Olivia (Laura Ramsey), who will inevitably develop a crush on Viola because of his/her sensitive side. This leads to several misunderstandings and close calls that are both funny and embarrassing. The big showdown comes at the soccer game, where Viola will get to prove her stuff. This all plays itself out in a completely unexpected way, especially when her brother Sebastian (James Kirk) shows up to add confusion to the mix.
'She's the Man' takes some time to get going. It starts out slow, but it picks up the pace later and maintains its comedic momentum to the end. It rarely stumbles along the way, making the experience of watching this rather effortless. Really, the movie just needs to succeed in two areas. First, it accomplishes the difficult feat of turning a rehashed plot into something funny, and secondly it gives Amanda Bynes the opportunity to take control of her role and run with it. On both counts, the movie got it right.