Film Reviews: Wednesday, March 15, 2006
She’s the Man\r\nStarring Amanda Bynes and Channing Tatum. Directed by Andy Fickman. Written by Ewan Leslie, Karen McCullah Lutz, and Kirsten Smith, based on William Shakespeare’s play. Rated PG-13.
Playing Viola

Twelfth Night goes to high school (and gets mixed grades) in She’s the Man.


Shakespeare’s stories mostly weren’t his own — the source material for a great majority of his plays came straight from the textbooks used in the schools in Stratford. The flexibility of the Bard’s stories is well known, though why they translate so well into Hollywood teen movies is a topic for another time. Suffice it to say that The Taming of the Shrew became 10 Things I Hate About You, Othello became O, and now Twelfth Night becomes She’s the Man. I’ll be impressed the day I see high school-set versions of Cymbeline or Pericles, Prince of Tyre.

Amanda Bynes plays Viola, a soccer star who’s outraged when her school cuts the girls’ team and her douche-bag soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend (Robert Hoffman) blocks her from joining the boys’ team. When her twin brother Sebastian (James Kirk), recently transferred to nearby Illyria High School, decides he’d rather cut class for a couple of weeks to play gigs with his band in London, Viola sees an opportunity. Disguising herself as her brother, she takes his place at Illyria and determines to make the boys’ soccer team. Things get even more complicated when Illyria’s star striker, Duke Orsino (Channing Tatum), enlists “Sebastian’s” help to get a date with Olivia (Laura Ramsey), the most popular girl in school.

The resulting movie neither finds a groove nor suffers from extended dead spots. On the minus side, the script doesn’t play the gender-bending aspects for anywhere near what they could have been. Duke’s supposed to go all gooey in the presence of Olivia, and even though Tatum gives it a good run, ridiculousness doesn’t come naturally to this actor. That quality does come naturally to Bynes, but she’s off here, too. She adopts this weird, stilted way of speaking as “Sebastian” and never owns the male role, whereas she seems much more comfortable doing comic business as Viola. She’s also not convincing as a soccer player — she’s tall enough, but her on-the-field exploits are obviously executed by a double, and she doesn’t find a way into that jock mentality, either.

Yet for all this, and for all the jokes that misfire, there are still quite a few that hit home, such as the cafeteria-table conversation when “Sebastian” starts talking about relationships in very girly terms, and his male teammates respond by leaving the table en masse. He finds his way back into their good graces in another enjoyable scene, when Viola’s gay friend Paul Antonio (Jonathan Sadowski) stages an encounter where two different hot chicks pretend to have known “Sebastian” as some sort of super-stud at his previous school. Shakespeare buffs will enjoy at the identity of “Malvolio” in this story, while everyone will enjoy a bearded, shaven-headed David Cross as a New Age-y school principal who wants to be every student’s friend. As one of Shakespeare’s clowns would have said about this mixed bag of a film, “A sentence is but a chevril glove to a good wit. How quickly the wrong side may be turned outward!”

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