She's the Man
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She's the Man

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The greatest thing about the works of Shakespeare is each generation is free to interpret his stories to suite the circumstances and situations prevalent to their times. Shakespeare’s plays encompassed every possible aspect of the human condition from the tragic to the ridiculous. The film, "She’s the Man’ is, shall we say, more on the silly side of the spectrum. Loosely based on the play "Twelfth Night" the flick is concerned with a girl trying to fit into a male world by impersonating her brother. Since the original work required the audience to push their ability to suspend belief and logic quite a bit we can hold this interpretation to no different standards and afford it the same courtesy.

Viola Hastings (Amanda Bynes) is a normal, athletic girl from a fairly well to do family. She is also the star of her soccer team at Cornwall High. Viola truly loves the sport and nothing could be disappointing than when the school cuts girls soccer due to a lack of students signing up for it. Determined to continue playing Viola attempts to join the boy’s squad but coach refuses, he is sure that no girl could ever be as good at the sport as any boy. Compounding Viola’s ire is her boyfriend Justin (Robert Hoffman), the captain of the boy’s team sides with his coach. Viola being feed up with the male chauvinism that abounds around her finds a way to continue playing. Her twin brother, Sebastian (James Kirk), is a musician about to start attending the notable Illyria Academy. He decides to skip the first few weeks of school to run off to London with is band and play in a music festival. Since the upper class and typically clueless divorced parents present no problem Viola schemes to take on her brother’s identity and play soccer at Illyria. After all she just needs to wear a wig, deepen her voice and put on clothing that hides her feminine curves and no one will know.

Once at the new school Viola, now known as Sebastian, finds her masquerade is not as easy to pull off as she had hoped. She gets on the team but when it comes time for shirts versus skins she naturally is picked for the skin’s team. He feigns sensitivity to sunlight in order to dodge that pitfall. The largest problem comes in the form of her roommate Duke Orsino (Channing Tatum). He is a sensitive young man that is more than willing to open up to what he thinks is another guy. Duke is romantically interested in a girl at the school, Olivia (Laura Ramsey). The problem is she has eyes for Sebastian. Viola completes the strange romantic triangle when she begins to fall for Duke. This naturally places Viola in some uncomfortable circumstances. Since this genre is far from subtle the lamentable Viola finds being a guy is not as easy as she had hoped. Her tampons fall out of her luggage in front of everybody, her voice slips octaves at a time and there is the prerequisite terror of the communal male shower after practice.

This is light hearted faire mainly targeted at the female teen audience. Even though I am far from the main demographic I found it enjoyable. There are just some movies that you have to shut off the higher functions of the brain and take it for what it is. Those who are familiar with the original play by Shakespeare there are enough little inside jokes to keep you busy. I found it fun to try to find them all. For example the pizza joint that the kids frequent is called Cesario, a nod to the name Viola uses as a man in Twelfth Night. Cross dressing has been around since well before Shakespeare’s time and it would appear that someone in the guise of the opposite genders garb is still good for a laugh. Of all the films that dealt with this "She’s the Man" most closely resembles the 1985 flick ‘Just One of the Guys’. Like that film the humor stems from the just how improbable the deception actually is. One ploy that is exceptionally bad is the wig Viola wears. It appears that Ms Bynes was not allowed to shear her luxurious long locks. She was still filming her television series, ‘What I Like About You’ and perhaps the studio did not want another fiasco like they had when Keri Russell cut her hair while on Felicity. The wig they stick her with looks more like Moe from the Three Stooges than her brother.

This film is carried almost entirely on the slender but talented shoulders of Amanda Bynes. For a young actress several years the junior of my own daughter she has a command of the screen far beyond her years. I have to admit I have been a fan of hers ever since I saw her in ‘Big Fat Liar’. Ms Bynes has a very natural sense of comic timing that enables her to pull off even the most outrageous story such as this. Although pretty she is not afraid to use her features in a rubber like manner to add a physical touch to the comedy. She also has the pratfall down with an expertise that many older comedians cannot match. The audience may not be able to accept the premise but Ms Bynes’ talent makes the film worth a viewing. It seems that Channing Tatum was cast more for how he looks with his shirt off than his comic abilities. He is eye candy for the young teenage girls that are watching. Typical of this genre, the romantic teen comedy, the adults are mindless buffoons that are more easily deceived than a new born infant.

Andy Fickman may be best known for his remake of the college classic ‘Refer Madness’. Completely thinking out of the box he did it as a musical. Here he continues his off beat thinking by pushing the envelope a bit with the humor. Instead of the safer PG rating the more ribald humor garnered a PG-13. He paces the film well; there are really no dead spots in the 105 minutes of running time.

Paramount does do well in the DVD transfer presented here. Once again there are both Pan & Scan and widescreen variations but give the director a little respect and stay with the original aspect ratio. The anamorphic 1.85:1 video is excellent as expected for such a resent release. The colors are vibrant with excellent contrast. The Dolby 5.1 audio is rich and full providing a nice sound stage but as with most films of this genre the sub woofer is basically silent. The extras are better than average. There is a commentary with director Andy Flickman and star Amanda Bynes. Flickman focuses more on the technical aspects of the process while Ms Bynes talks along with little back stage stories and some comments on playing a boy. There is also a behind the scenes featurette that shows how they transformed Bynes into a boy and a few deleted scenes. Since this is a film for the younger set there is naturally a music video include. A nice touch is the pop up trivia option with little factoids appearing on the screen. This is a fun watch that you can enjoy with your family.

Posted 7/11/06

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