Boys and Girls (2000)
Directed by Robert Iscove
Cast: Freddie Prinze Jr., Claire Forlani, Jason Biggs, Amanda Detmer, Heather Donahue, Alyson Hannigan, Monica Arnold.
2000 92 minutes
Rated: (for profanity and sexual situations).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, June 17, 2000.
Freddie Prinze, Jr. has said in recent interviews that the reason he made a string of teen movies in the last two years is because, in a sense, his goal was to create a trilogy of films that his generation could relate to, and appreciate. The opening part of the film threesome, "She's All That," was a cliched and rather uninspired high school dramedy that had a cast of fresh faces, but stereotyped each and every one of them. "Down to You" was the second film, inferior to "She's All That," and ruined by a mess of a screenplay and Prinze, Jr.'s amateurish performance. The final part of the trilogy, "Boys and Girls," is the best of the three, intelligently written and with just a little more going on in its head than the usual film of its type. It also can be noted as Freddie Prinze, Jr.'s very first movie in which he is actually pretty good in it. Usually striking frequent false notes in each of his performances, he has finally come into his own as an actor here, and it's a good thing, for the cast of "Boys and Girls" is its strongest asset.
Ryan (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) and Jennifer (Claire Forlani) first met on an airplane when they were 12-years-old, both flying alone en route to Los Angeles. The free-thinking Jennifer had just gotten her first period, and her graphic talks of it both confused and disgusted the anal-retentive Ryan, with their conversation eventually leading into a string of insults. Their next encounter was four years later in high school, with Jennifer now a cheerleader and Ryan the football team's mascot.
No matter how different Jennifer and Ryan were, their paths always seemed to cross, and it does again two years later when Ryan enters into the University of California in Berkeley, where Jennifer is a sophomore. Primarily spanning the first three years of Ryan's college experience, he and Jennifer gradually become best friends, their varying personalities a perfect fit to help each other out in their relationships when they most need it. Ryan is a structural engineering major, with his life all mapped out, whereas Jennifer is a Latin major with absolutely no idea how she could use such a thing to get a job in the future. Jennifer is afraid of commitment because of all of the times she has been burned by guys, while Ryan just wants someone who he can love unconditionally, and who is right for him. What isn't clear to Jennifer, however, is that the one that could really make her truly happy is right in front of her--the kind of guy who could be the love of her life, as well as her dearest friend.
"Boys and Girls" is predictable, but that is to be expected. What does come as a surprise is how much this Generation X and Y-aimed comedy-drama has in common with Woody Allen's films, most notably 1977's "Annie Hall." Despite the advertising campaign that makes "Boys and Girls" appear to be an ensemble picture, the film is essentially a two-character show, with Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Claire Forlani taking up almost all the screentime. All supporting characters are purposefully inconsequential catalysts that aid in taking Ryan and Jennifer through the journey that inevitably brings the two together. This style of storytelling works because it adds a layer of realism to the proceedings, where people can come in and out of your life before you have time to stop and realize it.
Besides the aforementioned Prinze, Jr., Claire Forlani (1998's "Meet Joe Black") surpasses the unextraordinary material to bring Jennifer an added dimension I suspect wasn't present in the screenplay, by "The Drews." Forlani is the type of classy actress you would never associate with teen movies, but here she is, in a role that is admittedly unlike any she has taken on before. Together, Prinze, Jr. and Forlani make for an appealing couple with not a lot of fiery chemistry, but delightful as close buddies.
While Jason Biggs (1999's "American Pie") has been highly touted in the ads for "Boys and Girls," he is not onscreen nearly as much as you would be led to believe. As Hunter, Ryan's girl-crazy, compulsively-lying roommate, Biggs is the comic relief of the film, and is well-cast. The same goes for Amanda Detmer (2000's "Final Destination"), as Jennifer's socially inept friend, Amy, who relies on a therapist to make the brunt of her decisions. Detmer brings added energy to her scenes, and is a likable presence throughout.
In a return to the big screen after her stunning debut in last year's "The Blair Witch Project," Heather Donahue is very funny as Megan, Ryan's straightforward girlfriend who approaches him about going out and makes it clear that "I always zoom in on what I want." Donahue is only in a few scenes, but makes a lasting impression, causing you to wish she could have garnered more to work with. Finally, Alyson Hannigan (1999's "American Pie") and musical artist Monica Arnold briefly appear in cameos as, respectively, Ryan's high school sweetheart and one of Hunter's fleeting flings.
At times a bit overly talky, and oddly feeling as if it might have been better equipped as a stage play, "Boys and Girls" is, nonetheless, a well-made romance that may not always work, but is appreciatively overambitious in its ideas about relationships and the opposite sex. It's better to aim high and only occasionally achieve its goals, I think, rather than merely accepting the bare minimum in character and story developments--something the majority of so-called "teen" films fall right into the trap of, without looking back.
©2000 by Dustin Putman