Officially a modern-day remake of "Twelfth Night" but owing just as much inspiration from 1985's "Just One of the Guys" and any number of other cross-dressing farces, "She's the Man" is a winning vehicle for the tart comic talents of Amanda Bynes (2003's "What a Girl Wants
"). The general premise and all of the little developments and twists leading up to the foregone conclusion are on the typical side, but Bynes works her way through it with such boundless energy, grace and sweetness that she makes it all seem relatively fresh. If only director Andy Fickman (2005's "Reefer Madness") had realized you can have too much of a good thing; at 105 minutes, the film runs out of steam in the homestretch and drags on to an interminable length.
With the summer winding down and her senior year of high school about to commence, Viola (Amanda Bynes) is angered to find out that not only is the girl's soccer team being cut from the sports curriculum, but she isn't allowed to play on the guy's team solely because of her sex. With her boarding school-bound twin brother Sebastian (James Kirk) secretly traveling to London for the first two weeks of the semester, Viola gets an idea: pose as Sebastian, make the soccer team, and prove that she is just as capable as any guy by beating the pants off her own school's team during their opening game.
Becoming and acting like the opposite sex turns out to be more than Viola bargained for. While she befriends her softhearted roommate Duke (Channing Tatum) and his friends, she also gets a serious crush on himquite the predicament when Duke thinks Viola is really Sebastian. In turn, cute classmate Olivia (Laura Ramsey) starts pining for Sebastian (really Viola), and considers going out with Duke, whose romantic interest in her is unrequited, to make Sebastian jealous. Toss in the snooty Monique (Alex Breckenridge), the real Sebastian's ex-girlfriend who won't quit stalking Viola, and overzealous nerd Eunice (Emily Perkins), who has a thing for both Sebastian and Duke, and you have multiple love triangles that convince Viola she might be in way over her head.
"She's the Man" is a sunny teen comedy, good-natured and inoffensive, with a dynamite lead in the form of Amanda Bynes. Whether playing beautiful tomboy Viola or the quasi-macho, semi-effeminate Sebastian, Bynes is a force to be reckoned with who is willing to do whatever is necessary to garner big laughs from the audience. Screenwriting newcomers Ewan Leslie and Jack Leslie, with the aid of experienced writing partners Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith (2004's "Ella Enchanted
"), don't miss a beat as they touch on all the bases of the sex-reversal genre, from Viola's embarrassing attempts to act like a ladies' man, to her predicament in using a communal shower with her male friends, to her uncontrollable tendency to start talking about mushy emotions in mixed company. For a solid 75 minutes or so, the film is fabulously entertaining and genuinely funny on a frequent level.
The climaxor should I say climaxesunfortunately drag things down a notch. Until this point, "She's the Man" had been rapid-fire in its pacing and its screwball gags. Once the action turns to the soccer game, and then Sebastian's predictable "coming-out" as Viola, and then to a ladies' formal where Viola and Duke reconcile their feelings for each other, it all becomes too much to handle and must still wrap up all of its many dangling story threads. Furthermore, with the real Sebastian arriving at his school and being mistaken for Viola's version of Sebastian, the picture stretches the boundaries of plausibility in a way that it hadn't before and only serves to make some of the characters look like idiots. While there is a passing resemblance in Sebastian and Violathey are supposed to be twins, after allno one living with an IQ above single digits would actually confuse these two.
The overstuffed cast of young talents, many of whom are just starting out in their careers, could eventually bring "She's the Man" to be a veritable who's who of A-list Hollywood in a few years' time. To write the word, "young," is to infer actors in their twenties, because that is how old most of them are. At no time do these teen characters actually look like teens, leading one to wonder why the setting couldn't have just been upped to college. Age inconsistencies notwithstanding, the most memorable support comes from Channing Tatum (2005's "Coach Carter
"), a likable, ideal match for Bynes in the form of either Viola or Sebastian; the angelic Laura Ramsey (2005's "Venom
"), charismatic as Olivia; and Emily Perkins (2002's "Insomnia
"), a veritable riot as the overbearing, headgear-wearing Eunice. Also of note is unsung genius Julie Hagerty (2005's "Just Friends
"), continuing her reign as cinema's leading go-to gal for daffy mom roles.
"She's the Man" carries along some valuable morals with its frisky nature, including the ongoing issue of sex discrimination in society, but they come and go as mere filler to the raucous highlights that are Amanda Bynes placed into numerous precarious situations as she tries to fool the school into thinking she's a man. Director Andy Fickman occasionally cannot resist the urge to go over-the-top and paint some of the peripheral characters as stereotypes, but neither this nor the overlong running time can totally ruin the irresistibly breezy overall experience. "She's the Man" isn't up to snuff with 2002's raunchier underrated gem, "Sorority Boys
," but then, it's also aimed at a slightly younger audience. With that in mind, the film is an endearing little romp that will do just fine until another rendition of the same premise comes out in a year or two. The thing that "She's the Man" deserves to be remembered for the most? Concrete proof that Amanda Bynes, no doubt about it, has what it takes to be a movie star.