(US); 1999; Rated PG-13; 95 Minutes
Freddie Prinze Jr.: Zach Siler
Rachael Leigh Cook: Laney Boggs
Matthew Lillard: Brock Hudson
Paul Walker: Dean Sampson
Jodi Lyn O'Keefe: Taylor Vaughan
Peter Abrams, Jennifer Gibgot, Richard N. Gladstein, Kyle
Ham, Richard Hull, Jeremy Kramer, Robert L. Levy, Jill Sobel
Messic, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein and Lila Yacoub;
Directed by Robert Iscove; Screenwritten by
Lee Fleming Jr.
by DAVID KEYES
All That" is about a popular high school kid who winds up
turning an ugly duckling into the prom queen after his girlfriend
dumps him. Now is it me or does this setup sound familiar?
Oh wait: it's the same setup that "My Fair Lady" was based
on, which in turn was taken from the "Pygmalion" story.
It seems at this point that high school comedies are now
becoming so desperate for new ideas that they're ripping
off old ones. But heck, a rip-off is more worth recommending
than some of the other ideas used in teenage flicks now.
you peal away the formula, what you have are some intriguing
setups heightened to greatness by creditable characters.
It starts out without inspiration, slowly develops a rhythm
(and I do mean slowly), and then it eventually emerges as
a fun, humorous and well-organized retelling of the classic
"Pygmalion" story. It's not always a good sign for movies
when they try to modernize classic fables (ala "Romeo +
Juliet") but "She's All That" develops a shape and concept
that in ways allows the filmmakers to freely establish motivation
and plausibility. There are times when the newer references
and plot developments seem paper thin, and that allows us
to see right through the formula. But it makes recoveries
from those slow moments. It isn't bad, it isn't great. It's
an average teenage movie, and for teenagers, that will be
enough, considering how the genre has suffered recently.
Prinze Jr. plays the lead here, a popular high school kid
named Zach, whose high GPA average garners him numerous
college scholarships. He's practically got the title of
prom king in his pocket (the movie takes place about six
weeks before, a little after spring break), but when his
'prom queen' dumps him for MTV star Brock Hudson (Matthew
Lilard), his buddies bet that he can turn a wallflower named
Laney into the new prom queen. He takes the bet, and before
you know it, we are given the realization that this Laney
is just a duckling in disguise. Behind the glasses and the
pinned-up hair is a gorgeous girl with long hair and beautiful
eyes, who in turn learns to love Zach for his kindness and
gentleness towards a girl like her.
story is just as predictable as it was long before with
"My Fair Lady," but both movies have as much fun as they
can in between the lines. The chemistry between Zach and
Laney is ignited so well that you feel like someone should
stand behind the camera with a pale of water in case one
of them catches on fire. It gets even more fun when Laney
and Taylor (Zach's ex) get to be prom rivals, and the tension
heats up between the two.
Leigh Cook as Laney has the least convincing performance
in the whole film, however. Unlike the old story it is based
on, her character does not give in to the popularity often
accompanied by a makeover like this. Her attitude never
really changes, nor does the look on her face after the
final transformation from cocoon to Butterfly. It seems
one dimensional, as if she doesn't care whether she succeeds
in beating Taylor or not.
actors in the movie look like genuine 20-year olds, and
that obviously gives away the signals that this is supposed
to be 'teenage comedy.' Why is this? Why must older people
portray younger characters? Some claim because teenagers
aren't allowed to see "R" rated films, but if that's true,
it's not like it should matter with "She's All That," or
any other movie for that matter. It's only rated PG-13,
meanwhile, when Jodie Foster was fairly young, she was in
"Taxi Driver," a film which even she admits that she couldn't
see. Why change the rules now? There's sometimes exceptions,
whence 20 year-olds look like teens, but that's not so the
cast with "She's All That." We know Freddie Prinze Jr. is
not teenager, even though he acted like one in "I Know What
You Did Last Summer."
are numerous problems with the characters and formula, but
the movie retains decency throughout its other characteristics.
It's funny, observant, and sometimes charming, especially
during the scenes shared by Prinze and Cook. They have great
interaction with each other. "She's All That" is certainly
not going to go down in history books, but at a time when
the teenage market has garbage like "The Faculty" and "Varsity
Blues," it works well with the material it's given.
1999, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
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