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She’s the Man Review

By Shawn McKenzie 03/25/2006

Amanda Bynes is ready for movie stardom.  After playing the “love interest” in the 2002 Frankie Muniz family comedy Big Fat Liar, she didn’t exactly set the world afire with her 2003 movie What a Girl Wants (though it did take in over $35 million on a $20 million budget.)  Meanwhile, her WB show “What I Like About You” was a funny sitcom for the teenage crowd, which kept her in the spotlight.  Now that the show has been canceled after four seasons (the news of its cancellation came this week), I believe that she is ready for permanent movie stardom, starting with She’s the Man.

Viola Hastings (Bynes) is a soccer player on the girls’ soccer team at Cornwall Academy…and her boyfriend Justin Drayton (Robert Hoffman), the captain of the boys’ team, thinks that she is better than half of the male soccer players (something that he tells her while making out with her on the beach.)  The next day, Viola finds out that the girls’ team has been cut due to budget constraints.  She goes to Coach Pistonek (Robert Torti), the coach of the boys’ team, and asks him if she can try out for the Griffins…Cornwall’s team…but he refuses, saying that girls just aren’t as good as boys at soccer.  To make matters worse, Justin punks out and doesn’t back her up (she, in return, breaks up with him.)  Viola is bummed, because she doesn’t want to be a debutante like her mother Daphne (Julie Hagerty) wants for her (Daphne thinks that Viola is too much of a tomboy and not “lady-like” enough.)  After going upstairs to her room, she sees her twin brother Sebastian (James Kirk) packing and slipping out his bedroom window.  He asks Viola to pretend to be their mother and explain his absence from his new school, Illyria Prep (he was kicked out of Cornwall, so that’s why he isn’t going to the same school.)  He and his rock band have been accepted to play on the bill at a music festival in London, and he just needs two weeks to do the festival and get back to school before he gets into trouble.  His home excuse to their mom is that he will be staying with their father Roger (John Pyper-Ferguson) for the two weeks (Daphne and Roger are divorced.)  This gives Viola a great idea.  Since Sebastian’s girlfriend Monique (Alex Breckenridge) already thinks that the twins look similar…Viola will play Sebastian, show up her former school Cornwall, and prove that she can play soccer just as well as any boy (I wonder how she explained her absence from Cornwall?)  She has her makeup artist/hairstylist best friend Paul Antonio (Jonathan Sadowski) turn Viola into Sebastian, and with the help of Paul and her Cornwall friends Kia (Amanda Crew) and Yvonne (Jessica Lucas), Viola goes to Illyria Prep to begin his/her first day of school (no one has seen Sebastian before now.)  She has also given her mother the “staying with their father” excuse so that she can stay in Sebastian’s boarding room.  She tries out for the Armadillos…Illyria Prep’s soccer team…led by Coach Dinklage (Vinnie Jones.)  She meets her roommate Duke Orsino (Channing Tatum) and his fellow soccer buddies, including Andrew (Clifton Murray) and Toby (Brandon Jay McLaren), who all think that he/she is a little abnormal.  She only makes second string at the tryouts, and the other players aren’t very willing to help her out.  She also meets Headmaster Horatio Gold (David Cross), the school’s principal, and Olivia Lennox (Laura Ramsey), the school’s hottie, who seems to fall for him/her immediately.  It’s not until she has Kia and Yvonne pretend that “Sebastian” is a player with a string of hot girls in his wake that they begin to accept him/her.  Duke and Viola start to become friends, and Duke admits to Viola that he likes Olivia.  Viola makes a deal with him:  he/she will get Olivia to go out with Duke, if he will help him/her make first string on the soccer team.  In the process of doing that though, Viola starts to fall for Duke, which poses several other problems.  She isn’t the only one who likes Duke.  Headgear-wearing nerd Eunice Bates (Emily Perkins) likes Duke, and begins to also fall for Viola’s Sebastian (all the while, Toby secretly pines for Eunice.)  Dorm director Malcolm Festes (James Snyder) likes Olivia, so he begins to question “Sebastian’s” gender out of jealousy.  Confused?  Here are the rankings:  Viola has both Olivia and Eunice liking her as Sebastian, and Duke liking her as Viola (he meets Viola in her girl form at a carnival); Olivia has both Duke and Malcolm liking her; Duke has Eunice liking him; and Eunice has Toby liking her.  What could go wrong…aside from Viola needing to duck Monique, who wants to talk to Sebastian about their relationship, and Viola needing Duke to help her make first string while falling in love with him?  Maybe if the real Sebastian shows up a couple of days early before the big game…

The movie is a loosely based modern adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, or What You Will.  Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith wrote the screenplay (with story and co-screenplay credit going to Ewan Leslie.)  Lutz and Smith also wrote the 1999 teen comedy 10 Things I Hate About You, which was based on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.  They went on to write the 2001 comedy Legally Blonde, which I loved, so this team knows how to write for attractive, funny females.

Andy Fickman, who directed last year’s very entertaining Showtime TV movie “Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical,” helmed this movie.  He was able to take Bynes’ already natural comedic talent and transform it into something enjoyable.  While I didn’t like it as much as either 10 Things or Reefer Madness, it was a movie that shows Fickman’s potential.

I liked how Bynes didn’t try too hard to disguise herself.  Aside from the bowl-cut hairdo, she didn’t look that much like Kirk.  The way the story was set up, her girlishness showed through once too often.  My guess is that the others around her didn’t look hard enough (kind of like the supporting characters not looking too closely when Superman would disguise himself as Clark Kent by simply putting on a pair of glasses.)  Since her character had little time to prepare for this situation, she didn’t try very hard to play a male.  Many other critics have already said that this movie isn’t an adaptation of Twelfth Night, but a remake of the 1985 comedy Just One of the Guys, starring Joyce Hyser.  I read the plotline for the Shakespeare play, and I would have to agree that it is more of a version of the Bard’s play than the ‘80s gender-bending movie.  Guys was about a journalism student who isn’t taken seriously because she is a pretty girl, and she doesn’t substitute for anyone else (plus Hyser looked more like a boy…specifically Ralph Macchio); this movie is about a soccer player who loses her team and replaces her already existing brother.  Similar…but not remade.

Bynes is pretty much the only one of any significance, but Cross does a funny turn in his small role as the principal.  Now that FOX’s “Arrested Development” is all but gone, I hope that he will get a lead part someday to display his comedic talents (other than in the “Mr. Show” direct-to-video spin-off movie Run Ronnie Run.)

At first, I thought that She’s the Man was going to be another Mean Girls (in a good way.)  While it wasn’t the comic gold of that 2004 PG-13-rated movie, it did prove that Bynes is ready for the big time.


Get the soundtrack featuring songs by OK GO, The Veronicas, Flipsyde, a score composed by Nathan Wang, and more:

Get the William Shakespeare play that this movie is adapted from:

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