Never Been Kissed
Rating -

Cast & Crew info:
Comedy (US); 1999; Rated PG-13; 107 Minutes

Drew Barrymore: Josie Geller
Molly Shannon: Anita
David Arquette: Rob Geller
Michael Vartan: Sam Coulson
John C. Reilly: Gus

Produced by Drew Barrymore, Jeffrey Downer, Sandy Isaac and Nancy Juvonen; Directed by Raja Gosnell; Screenwritten by Abbey Kohn and Marc Silverstein

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Written by DAVID KEYES

Like so many child stars of her generation, Drew Barrymore wowed audiences with a few good films, and then disappeared from the scene for years and years, only to turn up at the end a bigger star than one might have first imagined. After mesmerizing audiences with her pretty face in "Firestarter," and her sad tears in "E.T.--The Extra Terrestrial" during the late 70s and early 80s, the young blond slowly began to fall out of the public eye, as reports of a terminal drug addiction had been revealed across the headlines. The image of a cute little girl quickly became one of a grown, confused teen, as her strong addiction was reportedly started at an early age, and nearly got the best of her at the height of her minor years.

Then, as luck might have it, she fought off her drug problem. During that time she regained her sobriety, she also began to relive her childhood success, finding her way back into the scene of publicity with minor roles in some mildly successful films. The spotlight once again beamed down on her in the early 1990s, when she starred in her first serious role up to that point in the teenage thriller "Poison Ivy." Since then, she has appeared in several successful pictures, which include "Scream," "Mad Love," and most recently, "Ever After: A Cinderella Story." Each film succeeds to a point because she is a display of incredible talent, bringing to her characters the kinds of emotions and attitudes that no one else could. To look at her now, and compare her to that child of "E.T." is a difficult task. They are the same person, and yet so much has changed. She has grown up, evolving into one of cinema's most influential younger actresses.

"Never Been Kissed," her newest effort, is such an example of a jubilant return to the motion picture world. Like "Ever After" and "Home Fries," here is a film that is lighthearted and simple, but is made all the more appreciative because of Barrymore's presence, which sometimes even turns a bad film into an okay one (a la "The Wedding Singer"). Even though "Never Been Kissed" could have been delightful all the same without her help, she brings the movie honesty and heart, two qualities which are necessary in maintaining the film's big setup.

Barrymore plays Josie Geller, a young journalist who works for the paper that made Roger Ebert famous (for those who have been living under a rock, the publication is called the Chicago Sun-Times). The movie claims that she is only a young copy editor, but the script provides her a big office and a secretary. When the boss brings to her a proposal to write about high school life, she is forced to be sent back into one of the most painful memories of her past; the years she was considered "Josie Grosie" by her not-so-intillectual peers. Oh, but the bad memories seem to be worth it; Josie re-enrolls herself at school, hoping to gain the popular status her brother achieved, and she didn't.

But let's face it: aiming for the high road can produce some brief detours. Josie's first day back does not go so well; at least, for the people around her, who gaze into her eyes like they were competing in the Miss America pageant. Her mistake might have been wearing white past labor day. Or, as a peer points out, wearing white past the 1980s.

Simple solution: she turns to her brother for advice. Naturally, his advice has to be shown rather than told. Successfully, he re-enrolls himself into school, acts like a complete idiot, and is accepted by the first person who notices. Thankfully Josie's tactics in gaining a new reputation aren't quite as desperate.

According to some of the early parley, the filmmakers consider this entire setup a little "dreamlike," although the dialogue eventually assures us that this is anything but a dream sequence. The story of Ms. Geller's return to school, and second chance to fit in, are convincing and realistic, much more appreciative than most attempts made in the typical "coming-of-age" movie. Even though some of it can lead to unfeasible plot twists, maybe it's not so nonsensical to consider all of this possible in the real world.

I saw the movie twice; the first time paying attention to Barrymore, the second time focusing more on the plot conventions. Even though some of the treatments seem somewhat contrived and moronic, they are lit up by the spectacular energy of the characters, therefore allowing us to enjoy the film in practically any way. It gives us hope, to distance ourselves from the most embarrassing high school memories, so that we can flourish into the human beings we want to be, but have never had the chance to. Josie's story is more real than the script seems to realize; one in which a kiss arriving too late is better than no kiss at all.

1999, David Keyes, Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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