Title: She’s All That
Play time: 1h 35min
Director: Robert Iscove
Screenwriters: R. Lee Fleming Jr
Starring: Freddie Prinze Jr., Rachael Leigh Cook, Matthew Lillard
An enjoyable film is not always guaranteed to be good. A good film is not always guaranteed to be enjoyable. A common misconception is made when comparing entertainment value and cinematic quality. What many don’t seem to realize is that the two are completely independent. Take two recent movies, Nick Nolte’s Oscar Nominated Affliction and the new teen comedy She’s All That. The former is an extremely good film, and yet it is too grim and the realization of its subject matter is too no-nonsense to really be enjoyed. The latter is light-hearted, funny, motion-picture entertainment. But looking at it from a purely cinematic point of view it’s not a good movie at all. Only the excellent film can incorporate both enjoyment and quality.
What’s She’s All That Film Offering?
A modern take on Pygmalion and My Fair Lady, She’s All That really offers nothing new. The likable Freddie Prinze Jr., plays Zach, a high-school senior who seems to have it all; the 4th highest GPA in the class, popularity, the most saught-after girl in the school. But after she dumps him, he gets a tad arrogant, which leads to a challenge from one of his pals. Zach bets him that he could take any girl in the school — any girl at all — and turn her into the next prom queen. Why would anyone make a bet as stupid as that? Go figure.
The chosen one just happens to be Laney (Rachel Leigh Cook), an art freak that perfectly fits the socially accepted definition of a nerd. The reluctant Zach goes about slowly putting the moves on the astonished Laney, only to find himself — surprise! — becoming attracted to her.
She’s All That has the benefit of a wonderful cast. Freddie Prinze Jr., whose talents have heretofore been underused, gives an incredibly winning (although none too subtle) performance as Zach, making his character extremely likeable and human. The same goes for Rachael Leigh Cook, who too brings a remarkable humanity to a character that could have been played as a fool or a “geek”. She makes it seem like there is a whole world in store for anyone who takes the time to get to know her Laney.
Iscove and R. Lee Fleming Jr. Deliver Some Perfect Scenes
But even with a cast that good, there is only the occasional spark of intelligence or true wit in this picture. Seasoned TV veteran director Robert Iscove and first time writer R. Lee Fleming Jr. have some genius scenes but also far too many that drag. Consider the scene where Laney’s dad is sitting at the kitchen table shouting out answers to Jeopardy!. The question (or the answer, in Jeopardy! jargon): “This printer is credited with the very first print of the Old Testament.” Laney’s dad (with hilarious, deadpan deliverym I might add) immediately shouts out “Hewlett-Packard!” However, scenes like that are so welcome because there aren’t enough of them. Nor can the film avoid numerous cliches, such as the inevitable (and trite) “I’m a bet?!?!?” conversation and the events that immediately follow.
She’s All That Film, Pleasant to Watch
I usually have relatively low expectations when I go to see a film classified as a “teen” movie. A month or so ago I was pleasantly surprised with the enjoyable and profound Varsity Blues. And while I must admit that the thoroughly watchable She’s All That slightly exceeded my expectations, I must also add that, unlike Varsity Blues, it is nothing more then a relatively pleasant diversion. It’s wretchedly predictable, inconsistently funny and not always well-written. It’s enjoyable enough, but a truly good movie it’s not.
I suggest an interesting experiment. If you haven’t yet seen Varsity Blues or She’s All That, see the two of them on the same day and examine your reactions. You should, at the very least, find the former easier to relate to. But I insist that it’s also the superior picture.