March 23, 2006

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She's the Man (PG-13)
reviewed by Amy Diaz

High school students in the middle of their Shakespeare unit can add Twelfth Night to the list of plays helpfully CliffsNoted by Hollywood now that they have She's the Man, a charming adaptation fronted by the surprisingly deft Amanda Bynes.

I think students should be warned, however, that there is no soccer in Twelfth Night - no soccer and no Junior League. So you know, crack a book and at least skim the play. Don't leave your academic success to a former Nickelodeon star.

Most of the Bard's gang is here, however, and with their original names. Viola (Bynes) is a soccer star who suddenly finds herself with no field on which to shine after her school drops the sport. She and her teammates ask to join the boys' team, but are rebuffed in part by Viola's team captain boyfriend, who then becomes her ex-boyfriend, with both coach and boys' team members saying that girls can't play as well as boys.

Viola sees an opportunity to prove otherwise when her brother Sebastian (James Kirk) decides to run away to London for a few weeks to attempt to land his band a record deal. He's about to start school at a new boarding school where the soccer team will play its opening game against Viola's ex-boyfriend's team. Viola, therefore, decides to don a scruffy-boy-hair wig and a pair of sideburns and pass herself off as Sebastian. If she can make the team and beat her former school, she reasons, they'll have to let her onto their team.

Her initial attempts at boyhood are awkward - she speaks a weird mix of frat-boy and hip-hop slang, she walks like her underwear is about two sizes too tight - and she finds boy soccer more difficult than she expected. But her Sebastian does have one surprising ability: "he" is easily able to make the much-desired Olivia (Laura Ramsey) fall for "him." The apparent lothario qualities of this girl-boy do not escape the notice of Duke (Channing Tatum), Sebastian's roommate. The pair makes a deal - Duke will help Sebastian improve "his" soccer if Sebastian helps Duke get a date with Olivia. The plan goes swimmingly except that Olivia favors Viola's Sebastian and Viola has the hots for Duke, who thinks she's a boy.

And then the real Sebastian shows up...

Despite the "13" part of the film's PG-13 rating, She's the Man dodges any hints of same-sex attraction and stays solidly in slapstick territory with plenty of Three's Company-style quick wardrobe changes and identity wackiness.

She's the Man is as lightweight as it appears but it surprises by being considerably more fun than 10 Things I Hate About You or She's All That - other recent teenage-star-featuring remakes of theater classics (The Taming of the Shrew and Pygmalion/My Fair Lady, respectively). Bynes has a daffiness reminiscent of Sarah Chalke of Scrubs fame - the kind of physical comedy chops that is able to keep absurdity from becoming camp. Without being daring or inventive with the material, She's the Man strikes a tone of charming fluff not so unlike the play itself. B-


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