She's the Man review by Mike Long

What makes a celebrity? In days gone by, one had to do something special, unique, or noteworthy in order to become a celebrity. But today, it seems that nearly anyone can become a star (and Andy Warhol's odd prediction seems more and more accurate). During the early days of Hollywood, studios would groom actors to become premiere performers. Now, cable channels like Disney Channel and Nickelodeon find young people and thrust them upon an unsuspecting public. Amanda Bynes joined the cast of the Nickelodeon sketch-comedy show All That at age 10. After that, she got her own variety show on the network. She then moved on to a show on the WB and movies. Every time that I see her, I ask myself, "Why is she a star?" I found myself asking that several times during the wildly uneven film She's the Man.

She's the Man is a modern-day adaptation of Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night". Bynes stars as Viola, a high-school soccer player who has aspirations to attend the best college in the world. However, her dreams are dashed when she learns that the girl's soccer team has been cut from her school. Viola feels that the situation will easily be remedied if she can play for the boy's team, but the coach refuses. This situation delights Viola's mom, Daphne (Julie Hagerty), who wants her daughter to forget about soccer and concentrate on the upcoming debutante ball. Meanwhile, Viola's twin brother, Sebastian (James Kirk), has decided to blow off starting his new boarding school and instead goes to London with his band. Viola seizes this opportunity to report to Sebastian's school, passing herself off as her brother. Her plan is to make the soccer team and then humiliate her old school.

However, with her strong focus on soccer, Viola didn't take a lot of other things into consideration. Impersonating a boy is much tougher than she had planned and she finds herself constantly saying the wrong thing around her new roommate Duke (Channing Tatum) and his friends, Andrew (Clifton Murray) and Toby (Brandon Jay McLaren). Things get even more complicated when fellow student Olivia (Laura Ramsey) develops crush on Viola. While Viola is fending off Olivia, she realizes that she is developing feelings for Duke. As she works at soccer and waits for the game against her old school, Viola must deal with all of these romantic tensions in the air, all the while hoping that no one discovers her true identity.

She's the Man is the cinematic equivalent of a piece of chocolate from a Whitman's Sampler. It's sweet and satisfying for the moment, but it leaves you wanting something far more substantial. In other words, the movie is competently made, and has some funny moments, but otherwise, it's a bit too generic to leave one satiated.

When it comes to "romantic comedies" or "teen comedies", I honesty don't expect a great deal of comedy. But, She's the Man was surprisingly funny in spots. Going into the film, I had no idea that David Cross was in the movie, and as I've been having Arrested Development withdrawals, I was glad to see him. Cross plays the headmaster of the boarding school and he brings his own brand of odd humor to the film. Admittedly, some will cringe every time that he's on screen, but he made me life.

Now, on to Amanda Bynes. I'd seen Bynes a few times on Nickelodeon and I knew that she employed an amount of goofy humor which is surprising for a young actress. Well, that comedic style is in abundance here, as the film's idea of a girl impersonating a boy is for the girl borderline retarded. When she's playing Sebastian, Bynes moves in an odd manner and adapts a speech pattern which is an odd combination of Ebonics, a Southern accent, and a stop-start rhythm. (In a way, her behavior as a boy should be considered someone...) While I found this performance very, very odd and somewhat annoying, I must admit that it made me laugh a few times. When Bynes is being Viola, her performance reminded me of a cross between Jenny McCarthy and Jennifer Aniston. Most of the humor is quite straight-forward, but the movie does have a few memorable lines.

But, ultimately, She's the Man is simply to homogenous and pedestrian for its own good. Essentially, this is a (somewhat) safe teen comedy which puts a modern twist on a Shakespearian story. The comedy works from time-to-time, but the story is both too complicated and too predictable at the same time. The path that the relationships will take is fairly easy to see, but the movie throws so many characters and twists at the viewer that it all becomes tedious after a while. And while the cast is OK, outside of Bynes truly unusual performance, they are ultimately forgettable. So, while it's true that She's the Man is much better than I expected it to be, the movie is only good for a rental.

She's the Man kicks its way onto DVD courtesy of Dreamworks Home Entertainment. The film has come to DVD in two separate releases, one full-frame and the other widescreen. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks pretty good, as the picture is sharp and clear for the most part. There is a smidgeon of grain noticeable in the daytime shots and there is also a small amount of artifacting to be had. The image is stable and the colors look very good, especially the bright soccer uniforms played against the background of the green field. The DVD features a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good and the surround sound and bass effects really come to life during the soccer game.

The She's the Man DVD contains several extra features. We start with an AUDIO COMMENTARY featuring actors Amanda Bynes, Channing Tatum, Laura Ramsey, Robert Hoffman & Alex Breckenridge along with director Andy Fickman and co-writer/producer Ewan "Jack" Leslie. As with most "crowd" commentaries, this track dissolves into inscrutable laughter at times, but this also results in some funny moments. (Can you say "camel toe" on a commentary?) When this group isn't making themselves laugh, they do share some good information about the making of the film and the actors speak at length about working with one another. Leslie appears on a second AUDIO COMMENTARY with producer Lauren Shuler Donner. This track is much calmer and the pair divulge many tidbits about the actors, the locations, and the story. The DVD also features a "Shakespeare, Soccer, and Such Trivia Track" which provides "Pop-up Video" style info on the screen. I don't recommend using this feature while viewing the film for the first time, as it's quite distracting.

"Making the Man" (15 minutes) is the standard "making of" featurette and contains comments from cast and crew discussing the script, the casting, the director, the locations, and shooting the soccer match. "The Troupe" (8 minutes) gives an overview of the cast. With "Inspired by Shakespeare..." (4 minutes) Fickman points out the similarities between the film and "Twelfth Night". The DVD contains 9 DELETED SCENES which can be viewed with an optional commentary and have a "Play All" feature. Other than some deleted David Cross material, there's not much here. The 3-mintue GAG REEL has some nice moments. The extras are rounded out by a "Cast Photo Album" (still gallery), the MUSIC VIDEO for the song "Let Go" by Dave Lichens, and the trailer for She's the Man.

5 out of 10 Jackasses

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