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DVD Review - She's The Man

August 13th, 2006

When She's the Man opened in March, the initial reaction to the film for most people was, "Amanda Bynes doesn't look like a boy, there's no way she's going to pull this off." But was this a fair complaint, or did people overlook an entertaining movie because of it?

Spoiler-Free Synopsis:
Everybody has a secret... Duke wants Olivia who likes Sebastian who is really Viola whose brother is dating Monique so she hates Olivia who's with Duke to make Sebastian jealous who is really Viola who's crushing on Duke who thinks she's a guy...

And that's not the synopsis; that's just the tagline.

Without giving away more than you'd learn from the trailer... Amanda Bynes plays Viola, a soccer playing teen whose school just cut the girls' team. At the same time her brother takes off for a gig in London and asks her to cover for him at his new prep school, which just happens to be her school's main rival. So she decides to pretend to be her brother to make the team and beat her old school, which includes her recently ex-boyfriend. Got that? Good.

The next section contains spoilers, click here to skip to the Special Features section.

First things first, this is a romantic comedy. A romantic comedy about cross-dressing and sports. Individually, these types of films tend to be dominated by cliches. Combined, there's an overwhelming sense of deja vu in nearly every plot point.

For instance, cross-dressing movies where one character pretends to be a member of the opposite sex, as opposed to movie about cross dressers, tend to have the same basic formula. You have the setup, the reason for the deception. In this case it is a combination of Viola's covering for her brother and her desire for revenge. Once the setup takes place you will have several close calls like the hazing scene, difficulty adjusting to the new gender roles, trying to keep the two identities separate. And then there are the romantic engagements. In this case since Viola is pretending to be a boy, she will of course fall in love with a boy, and will have at least one girl feel the same about her. And as soon as you know this film is a cross-dressing movie, you know all of this will happen.

Predictability like that would normally kill any enjoyment value a movie might have, but here's the thing, Some Like it Hot and Tootsie follow the exact same formula and they were crowned the two best American comedies of all time by the AFI back in 2000. On the other hand, White Chicks also followed the same formula so it is clear that there's a huge range in quality from the best to the worst. The enjoyment comes not from the originality of the script, but from what the cast & crew brings to the conventions of the genre.

I'm happy to report that She's the Man brings more than enough. The main reason for this is the performances by Amanda Bynes and some of her co-stars, like David Cross and Emily Perkins. Amanda Bynes is certainly a young actress, but has been performing for half her life, most of that as the lead in her own show. In that time she has developed a fearless approach to comedy that is infectious and can make even weaker material more entertaining.

On a side note, those who read this site on a daily basis, you know I had my doubts about Amanda Bynes being able to convincingly portray a boy from the first time I heard about this movie. And while I will admit she looks a lot more like a boy that I thought she would, I still wasn't convinced for a second. However, I was willing to suspend belief since, despite my initial trepidation, I was hooked by the movie.

As for the rest of the cast, most were great including David Cross, who is very reliable when it comes to supporting role like this. Julie Hagerty, Emily Perkins, Jonathan Sadowski didn't have large roles, but were the best part of each scene they were in. On the other hand, some of the other male leads didn't do enough to differentiate themselves. Not sure if this was a product of the script or the acting, or both. Regardless, it was not a major concern.

There were also some pretty big plot holes. For instance, Viola pretends to be her brother at his new school. What about her old school? Wouldn't they notice she stopped coming to classes? Wouldn't they contact her parents at some point? Also, when Sebastian finally show's up, no one seems to notice he's looks different, sounds different, acts different, and has grown three inches taller. Had the film not been entertaining otherwise, this might has pushed my suspension of disbelief too far. However, as it was, I was more than willing to let them slide.

Special Features:
Leading the way are two audio commentary tracks, the first being the more casual and entertaining Cast Commentary while the second is the slightly more technical and informative Crew's Commentary.

Cast Commentary:
Features director Andy Fickman, co-writer / producer Ewan Leslie, and cast members
Amanda Bynes, Channing Tatum, Laura Ramsey, Robert Hoffman, and Alex Breckenridge.
The more casual of the two tracks, this one deals a lot more with praising the various actors than giving deep insight into the making of the movie. They talk about the cold weather for the first day of shooting, how great Julie Hagerty, Emily Perkins and others were. They also comment about some of the plot holes, the cliches, like the training montage used during some of the soccer scenes and how the romantic pairings the in the end were a little... on the predictable side. It's clear that they enjoyed making the movie and their enthusiasm makes the track worth listening too. One last note, with that many participants, you don't expect many dead spots and there weren't. In fact, there were some spots where too many people were talking at once.

Crew Commentary:
Co-writer / producer Ewan Leslie and producer Lauren Shuler
While this track give more technical and behind-the-scenes information, it is still mostly light-hearted and entertaining. They discuss everything from the set designs, to the wardrobe, to how cold it was during their first day of shooting in Vancouver. With only two participants, there are a few dead zones, but nothing that hurts its value substantially. However, the cast commentary was the more entertaining of the two and has more replay value.

Shakespeare / Soccer Trivia Track:
While this is called a Shakespeare / Soccer Trivia Track, it contains a lot trivia about other topics from the movie including mentioning how cold it was when they started shooting in Vancouver. I'd like to point out that both commentaries mention how cold it was and how the crew was in parkas so I actually did the research and found out the coldest June day on record in Vancouver was on June 27th, 1983 when the maximum was a mere 2.6 degrees Celsius or 37 degrees Fahrenheit, which I will admit is a little chilly. But according to the Trivia Track, the temperature reach 62 degrees. If you need to where a parka in 62 degree weather, you have issues. Granted, if it top 50 degrees, I'm in shorts, so perhaps I'm not the best judge of these things.

Making the Man - 15:00
The typical making of featurette features most of the cast and crew talking about the script, the casting, the location. ... They again mention how cold it was during the first days of shooting in Vancouver. It was 62 degrees, that's the average temperature in New York City, get over it. Overall it doesn't bring a whole lot of insight into the production, but it isn't pure fluff either.

The Troupe - 7:45
A slightly more in-depth look at the cast of the film. Like the making of featurette, it's your typical mix of talking heads, behind-the-scenes footage, and clips from the movie. A lot of love is shared, but not too much in the way details.

Inspired by Shakespeare's .... - 4:20
Talks about the connection between She's the Man and Shakespeare's The Twelfth Night. Even at its most basic, the plot only has superficial similarities to Shakespeare's play while most of the connections are simply the names used. (Name of the school, name of the Italian restaurant, name of the tarantula, etc.) This featurette is about as in-depth as one would expect given the target demographic and the short running time. Those looking for a scholarly look on Shakespeare's play will need to look elsewhere.

Deleted Scenes - with or without commentary - 11:00
Nine deleted scenes that were mostly cut for time. Not a lot is lost when these scenes were cut with only a couple of them should have been left in the movie. On the other hand, scenes like the extended soccer shots do make a good extra. The commentary doesn't add a lot of insight as to them

Gag Reel - 3:20
Mostly the cast and crew goofy around on the set and blowing lines. It takes something special to for a gag reel to be memorable, and this doesn't have anything like that.

Music Video - Let Go - David Lichens - 3:20
It's a music video. Mostly just David Lichens performing and very little to do with the movie.

Cast Photo Album
A few dozen photos including behind-the-scenes and publicity stills.

She's the Man is in no way high art. It was, on the other hand, much more entertaining that I thought it would be. I was expecting a few entertaining performances, but mostly a typical teen comedy dumbed-down for its target audience. And yes, the plot was unbelievable, and there were more than a few cliches thrown in, but thanks to strong performances by Amanda Bynes, David Cross, and others the end result was a movie that was better than it really should have been, as long as you are willing to suspend disbelief throughout the whole movie.

Add in an impressive collection of extras, (two audio commentary tracks, trivia track, outtakes, deleted scenes, and more) and the replay value warrants purchasing over just a rental.

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Filed under: Video Review, She's the Man