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Film Review **..: ...She...s the Man... Is Not Da Bomb

Nothing Great in This Recycled Teenybopper Flick

By Bill Andrews

She’s the Man

Directed by Andy Fickman

Written by Ewan Leslie and Karen McCullah Lutz & Kirsten Smith

Starring Amanda Bynes

Rated PG-13

Now playing

As my fianc e and I filed into the theater, things looked grim. Not in a morbid, ominous way, but in a “we’re totally the oldest people here” kinda of way, a “we’re probably the only people here who haven’t watched The Disney Channel today” kind of way. I had hope, however; after all, this was a movie based on Shakespeare’s work, and a hot girl actually did a good high school movie recently (“Mean Girls”), so why not 2006 as well? As soon as the movie started, though, I had my answer: dialogue.

“She’s the Man,” starring Amanda Bynes, is a modern adaptation of the Shakespeare comedy “Twelfth Night.” In both plots, a girl named Viola pretends to be her twin brother Sebastian for one reason or another (survival in one, soccer in the other — I’ll let you guess which), and does so much male bonding with (the) Duke Orsino that she falls for him; he, though, is after a girl named Olivia, who in her hilarious turn is after the man she thinks is Sebastian (but isn’t!). In “She’s the Man” there are also exes thrown in for fun and profit, and a female equality angle that was absent in the original.

Since I knew about all of these differences ahead of time, they didn’t scare me. After all, “10 Things I Hate About You,” probably the best modern adaptation of Shakespeare, had its share of departures from the original, and look how great that turned out. I believed we were ready for another quality adaptation.

Apparently, Hollywood disagreed. Within the first three minutes of actual movie (after an opening sequence featuring half-naked Viola playing soccer at the beach), I knew it couldn’t live up to “10 Things.” The script was just awful — the producers obviously didn’t allow any lines that hadn’t been in at least five other teen movies.

Movies aren’t just built on dialogue, though, right? There are other things too, like good acting — but not in this case. While it is difficult to assess the quality of actors in such movies, I got the impression that Bynes was using her face a little more than was good for her. In fact, there were no real standout performances (though it was nice to see Airplane’s Julie Hagerty), which is strange given the huge potential of some of the roles. The same went for the music, costumes, and directing.

All of this is not to say, though, that “She’s the Man” is not an enjoyable enough movie. In fact, it was pretty funny at times — for as any fan of Abrams or Zucker knows, there are two kinds of humor: witty and situational. This movie excels at the latter. They got more mileage out of the “chick’s a dude” joke than Shakespeare did, and it somehow never got old. Appropriately for that, the sheer absurdness of how much Viola looked like her brother (except for the two-inch height difference) was pretty mesmerizing as well. My fianc e and I laughed a lot, but not nearly as much as our younger friends in the audience, who clearly loved it all. So, on its own terms, the movie was pretty successful.

Sure, it could’ve been smarter, wittier, and better. (I don’t think it could’ve been hotter, especially considering they followed the lead of “10 Things” regarding girls and flashing.) It could’ve been much more than a teenybopper movie with some awesome Shakespearian references. But that’s just not what they wanted with this picture. What a tragic ending for this comedy!