September 20, 2007

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Sydney White (PG-13)
Amanda Bynes fights an evil sorority queen with some help from her seven dorky housemates in Sydney White, a lightweight college fairy tale.

Sydney White (Bynes) has been raised for most of her life by her father, a plumber who has taught her the fine art of pipe installation and correct tool usage. As she heads off to college for her freshman year, Sydney hopes to inject a little more femininity into her life and attempts to join her motherís sorority.

Rachel (Sara Paxton) is the head of that sorority and number one on the campus-wide ďWhoís HotĒ list. She takes an instant disliking to Sydney. Perhaps itís because Sydney isnít a typical blonde Barbie or perhaps itís because Rachel sees Sydney talking to Tyler Prince (Matt Long), the boy she hopes to snag. Whatever the reason, Rachel takes pains to make Sydneyís pledge experience particularly difficult.

Despite her desire to join her momís sorority, Sydney isnít completely convinced itís for her. She feels particularly bad when one of the pledge tasks involves cruelty to Lenny (Jack Carpenter), a sweet if allergy-prone guy she meets in her early days on campus. After Rachel publicly kicks Sydney out of the sorority, Lenny and six other geeky oddballs in a rundown house called the Vortex take pity on her and let them stay with them. Determined to bring down the Greek system that keeps the money with the fraternities and sororities and away from the non-Greek students like the Vortex guys, Sydney convinces them to mount a campaign for student government. Meanwhile, the plucky Sydney is also moving up the Hot list ó much to the horror of Rachel ó and further enchanting Tyler. Rachel, queen bee for all of her college career, is not willing to give up her hotness crown or the handsome Prince so easily.

Amanda Bynes is still playing to the squealy set but sheís nonetheless difficult to hate. Sure, this movie is suspense-free and completely predictable but it is also cute, occasionally funny and sort of sweet. Bynes has a surprisingly good sense of comic timing. She has yet to develop the qualities (rampant nitwitism) that make Lindsay Lohan and her ilk so thoroughly insufferable (qualities that Lohan herself only developed after a very brief run of impressive performances). Sure, Bynes looks lip-gloss-commercial perfect most of the time, but she seems to relish the opportunities she gets to be goofy. Viva dorks!, is the message of this movie and Bynes seems to dig deep and embrace whatever dorky qualities she has.

And it is Bynes that makes the movie. Her co-stars seem more like types than actual people (Matt Long is like a late-model Freddie Prinze Jr.; Paxton is a very poor manís Reese Witherspoon). But the Bynes sass helps the movie rise above the tween movie crowd. C+

Rated PG-13 for some language, sexual humor and partying. Directed by Joe Nussbaum and written by Chad Creasey, Sydney White is an hour and 45 minutes long and will open in wide release on Friday, Sept. 21. It is distributed by Universal.