Tuesday, April 18, 2006

SHE'S THE MAN - not that bad really

Okay, so now I have stopped laughing at the headline in today’s Guardian (Jamie Foxx: “I’m here to save R&B”[1]) – I am ready to review the latest teen flick, SHE’S THE MAN. Clearly, no self-respecting cinema-goer over the age of 16 should see this movie. As a straightforward romantic-comedy for adults it fails miserably: it lacks the cross-over charm and satirical edge of a movie like MEAN GIRLS. However, if SHE’S THE MAN is not going to set the world alight, neither is it a terrible movie. And as a former young teenage girl, and the “responsible adult” who usually winds up taking her young cousins to the flicks, I can attest that for its target audience, this movie ticks all the boxes.

Anyways, let’s get back to basics. SHE’S THE MAN is a very loose adaptation of Shakespeare’s [2]Twelfth Night[3]. Viola is a young girl who just wants to play football[4] but faces opposition both from her school and her mum[5]. When her twin brother Sebastian bunks off to London with his band, she takes his place at his prep school. Her aim is to make the football team and beat her old school, thus proving that she is a better player than the boys. The hiccup in the proceedings is that while she is meant to be persuading school hottie, Olivia, to date Duke (her hunky room-mate) she falls in love with him herself.

The success or otherwise of SHE’S THE MAN rests squarely on the shoulders of the actress playing Viola – a girl named Amanda Bynes. Given that I live in this Sceptred Isle, I had no frickin’ clue who Amanda Bynes is, or why she should stake a claim to my hard-earned (ahem!) ten squid. However, a quick tour of the internet reveals that she used to host her own variety show on US TV. Now, it strikes me that Amanda Bynes could be the female Yanqui equivalent of our very own self-styled “cheeky chappies”, Ant and Dec. These two child-TV-stars have seamlessly moved from crappy kids TV to crappier Saturday night TV “entertainment” to yet crappier movies with unstudied ease. No doubt Amanda Bynes has a similarly stellar career as the poor-man’s Lyndsay Lohan in front of her, especially as for the most part the average “responsible guardian” would rather their charges aspire to being cute and love-able than skeletal and dating Wilmer Valderrama[6]. Seriously, Amanda Bynes is actually very likeable in this movie, and while clearly no-one would actually believe that she is a man, that is no barrier to enjoying the movie.

I realise that I have spent a lot more time on this review than the film merits, but let me quickly make one last comment aimed squarely at British readers. Please do not be put off by the fact that the Football coach is played by Vinnie Jones[7] . He is on-screen for barely five minutes in the whole movie and does not detract from the generally above-average quality of the cinematic proceedings.

[1] A statement that is ridiculous in so many ways. [2] Somewhere out there is a PhD student writing a thesis on the Teen Chick movie genre and its sub-genre: the Shakespearian adaptation. If CLUELESS is the ageing Don of the genre (still feared, but unlikely to take you in a back-alley scrap) and 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU is the Michael Corleone (the new pretender to the throne) then SHE’S THE MAN is the Fredo (amiable, will keep you entertained for ninety minutes, but destined to be rubbed out by greater men.) [3] I find it kind of funny that this has been played up by the movie’s marketers and has been splurged all over reviews and posters. I mean, is it likely that in ASBO-Britain, an allusion to the Shakespearian source material is likely to help or hinder the target audience from going to the cinema? [4] That’s soccer to you yanks [5] Is this a cunning rip-off of sleeper-hit BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM or a shameless cash-in on World Cup 2006 hysteria? Or is it a canny combination of the two? Either way, you’ve got to admire the marketing moxy of whoever cooked this movie up. [6] Although “Wilmer” is a cool name.
[7] C-list celebrity footballer, famous for on-field violence rather than actual footbaling prowess.

SHE'S THE MAN is on release in the UK and US. It goes on release in Germany on September 21st 2006.


  1. Clearly, no self-respecting cinema-goer over the age of 16 should see this movie.
    i went and see it and it wasnt that bad:)
    Actually the reason, i went to this movie, was i was so angry with boring european movies i've seen lately like Low Profile, Anne ya da Leyla etc. and i decided to see an american movie but whatever, it was a lot of fun:)

  2. Hey Berque, I feel your pain - I struck out with a lot of supposedly superior quality art films lately. This is why I will be watching Curious George with my god-daughter today. Zero intellect, maximum popcorn cuteness!