She's The Man
|Vinnie Jones||Coach Dinklage|
|Directed by||Andy Fickman|
How?s this for a ridiculous idea? This girl Viola disguises herself as a boy, masquerades as her missing twin brother Sebastian, infiltrates the inner circle of Duke Orsino, and finds herself the pivot of a romantic triangle in which Orsino loves Olivia, Olivia loves Viola/Sebastian, and Viola loves Orsino. Who would dream up a hare-brained situation like that?
Bill Shakespeare, that?s who. Of course there was more to it in Bill?s version. The great Sir Toby Belch, his cat?s-paw Sir Andrew Aguecheek, and his co-conspirator Maria missed the cut in this teen comedy adaptation, and Malvolio is reduced to a hairy tarantula. And the Bard?s language is missing, save for just one line: "Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them." But who?s to care?
Purists in the audience will experience a clammy thrill of unease at She?s the Man?s opening credit, ?Inspired by Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare.? But then, there is very little reason for purists to be in the audience. This is a movie aimed at girls in their early teens, and who knows, maybe it?s the movie Shakespeare would have written if he?d been writing movies for teenage girls. Only he wasn?t.
Karen McCullah Luzt and Kristen Smith are. They previously reinvented the Bard?s The Taming of the Shrew for the junior high set as 10 Things I Hate About You, and now (with Ewan Leslie) they?ve concocted this vehicle for Amanda Bynes, star of TV?s What I Like About You, which would seem to cover all the bases. The director is Andy Fickman, whose Reefer Madness: the Movie Musical was another adaptation of a classic.
Viola (Bynes) is an emotional shipwreck when Cornwall High drops its girls? soccer program, and the coach won?t let her try out for the boys? team. But when her twin brother Sebastian (James Kirk) decides to ditch the first two weeks at his new boarding school, Illyria Prep, to sneak off to London with his band, she sees an opportunity. She will disguise herself as a boy and take his place at the school to try out for the soccer team. Illyria?s first game of the season will be against Cornwall. It?s positively Shakespearean!
Her mother (Julie Hagerty) wants Viola to give up sports and be a debutante. Yuck-o! But Viola pretends she?s going to spend a couple of weeks at her father?s to study ladylike behavior with Sebastian?s girlfriend, and slips off to Illyria in drag. Here?s how serious she is: she doesn?t cut her luxurious long hair, she just tucks it up under a boy wig and pastes on some sideburns. An ace bandage around the breasts, a rolled-up washcloth in the pants, and she could fool almost anyone. Not!
But movies like this require a willing suspension of disbelief, which is not too much to ask. Viola may not look much like a high school boy, but she looks more like one than does Duke, her Illyria roommate, played by the 26-year-old Channing Tatum. He is undeniably a hunk, but he looks more like a grown-up catalogue model (which he was) than an adolescent. The gender-bending plot convolutions play footsie with gay and lesbian comedy situation (as did Shakespeare) ? will she kiss her? will he kiss him? ? and tease us with coquettish promises of naked locker room and shower room and dorm room boy-girl confrontations, but where the heroine?s ingenuity or good luck don?t bail her out, the camera angle does.
Bynes is a cute comedienne, but she overplays the mugging and cross-eyed takes, calling to mind Sally Field doing an impression of Red Skelton. For her boy persona she adopts a grating good-ol?-boy southern drawl. Like any cross-dressing movie character, she?s constantly forgetting who she is and slipping into girlish reactions, and then having to scramble. But when she switches back to her girl identity, as she does from time to time in the movie, she tends to swagger and scratch her crotch and chew with her mouth open.
There?s plenty of fun to be had, especially if you fit the demographic. It?s hard to resist dialogue like ?Girls with asses like mine do not talk to boys with faces like yours.? And for boys looking for a sure-fire line to show a girl you?re sensitive ? ask her if she likes cheese. The main theme of the movie is feminist equality, but it soon becomes clear that on the soccer field, Viola is not good enough to play with the boys. But she can learn ? with Duke coaching her privately, she makes up the talent gap in less than two weeks, and cracks the Illyria starting lineup in time for the Cornwall game. There?s some lively soccer footage, interrupted for a late-in-the-game midfield confessional, and finally this feminist manifesto climaxes with Viola putting on a gown and coming out at the Debutante?s Ball. As the Bard might put it,
?Jack shall have his Jill,
?Nought shall go ill,
?The man shall have his mare again,
?And all shall be well.?
© Text 2006 Jonathan Richards - Filmfreak.be