She's the Man

Reviewed By Doug Bentin
Posted 03/31/06 02:37:42

"Music, food, love, etc--play on."
3 stars (Average)

Moliere once said that working in the theater was like sex—first you do it out of love, then you do it with a few friends, and finally you’re just in it for the money.

Despite the fact that Amanda Bynes has been in show biz for over half of her 19 years, she still seems to be in the “love it” stage. Now, I can’t recommend “She’s the Man” to a fully adult audience—although I have to wonder how fully adult anyone is who regularly goes to the movies—but telling you that Bynes’ puppy-like eagerness to please makes this teen comedy a borderline choice for adults with a couple of hours to kill.

She plays Viola, a high school student who is crushed when girls’ soccer is cut from the school’s agenda. When her boys’ soccer team captain/boy friend humiliates her in front of their friends, she begins packing a grudge worthy of a Japanese ghost.

Next step in mechanical farce plot: Viola’s brother Sebastian, who is about to transfer to a rival school, decides to sneak off to London for a couple of weeks to play with his band and he asks Viola to cover for him. She agrees to help him out, then decides to pretend to be him at the new school, join the soccer team, become a first team player, then beat her real school in the big game.

This means that she will have to room with a strange boy for two weeks—why does this school even have dorms--who, along with the soccer team, won’t figure out her true gender, and disappear from her school for two weeks while no one there seems to notice.

This is a good time to mention that the idea for the tale is credited to Shakespeare, via “Twelfth Night.” You can buy into that if you want to, and certainly putting a gal into britches was one of Bill’s most popular comic devices, but I suspect the credit line is just a way to pass the plot’s major implausibilities off onto a source with which the intended audience isn’t familiar. Now when someone moans “Hey, that couldn’t happen,” someone else can snap back, “They got that part from Shakespeare,” who wasn’t really above the ludicrous himself. Read “Titus Andronicus” lately?

So Viola falls in love with her/his roommate Duke (Channing Tatum) while Duke lusts for Olivia (Laura Ramsey) who gets it for Sebastian (Viola in pants). Then Duke meets Viola as herself and starts to like her, and—oh, to hell with it. It’s just that that damn Shakespeare stuff. There is more romance with secondary characters, but we don’t care any more for them than the groundlings did back at the Globe.

The plot complications in “She’s the Man” make perfect sense, but you still won’t believe the story for a single minute. But then, no one has for 400 years, so who cares? It’s a farce and therefore it’s about exaggeration and loss of control.

Director Andy Fickman, from the L.A. stage, seems to have one set of instructions for his cast—faster, louder, funnier—and they all keep up with him, but the real joy is Bynes, who is well on her way to comic stardom as a blend of Lucille Ball, Carole Lombard and Marion Davies. I suspect that when the teen queen dust settles, Bynes and Mandy Moore will be the ones left standing.

It’s been a long time since I was a teenaged girl, even in Internet chat rooms, but Bynes is one with whom I can connect. She’s cute and bright, and she works that comedy shtick like an old pro.

Look, this movie was made for tweener girls so don’t trust any review of it that was written by anyone who can’t like what they like. Just say that the intended demographic will love it.

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