|She's the Man (2006)
Starring: Amanda Bynes, Laura Ramsey, Channing Tatum, Robert Hoffman, Vinnie Jones, David Cross
Director: Andy Fickman
Adapting classic literary works into bubbly teen comedies isn’t exactly a fresh concept, but it’s one that has worked well over the past decade. Some of the best examples include Amy Heckerling’s “Clueless” (based on Jane Austen’s “Emma”) and “10 Things I Hate About You” (from Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew”), and while the latest film to employ this tactic, “She’s the Man,” doesn’t show as much promise as the abovementioned, it’s still a nice addition to a budding genre geared towards making a quick buck off teenage girls. Supposedly based on the Shakespeare play “Twelfth Night” (only in theory, though it does use a few of the same names), this Amanda Bynes vehicle is a lot more like 1985’s “Just One of the Guys” than anything else, with the exception that it features a lot more slapstick humor and an attractive female in the lead.
Bynes stars as Viola Hastings, a teenage tomboy who’s devastated when the high school girls’ soccer program is cut due to lack of interest, and the coach of the boys’ team forbids them to try out. When her twin brother Sebastian (James Kirk) – who has just been transferred to the rival high school on the other side of town - leaves for London to perform in a musical festival, Viola contrives a plan that has her undergoing a makeover so she can pretend to be Sebastian (because they look so much alike, not!), try out for the soccer team, and then beat her old high school when they play in the season opener.
It wouldn’t be Shakespeare, however, if there weren’t plenty of the usual plot twists, and there’s really no better way to describe it than the press card that arrived in my mail: “Everybody has a secret… Duke (Channing Tatum) wants Olivia (Laura Ramsey), who likes Sebastian, who is really Viola, whose brother is dating Monqiue (Alex Breckinridge), 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…” It’s actually not as confusing as it initially sounds, but it does make for some interesting problems along the way. Bynes isn’t very convincing as a guy, and though she occasionally speaks in a lower voice, her femininity shows through far too often to fool anyone paying attention.
And though she’s not particularly talented, Bynes is definitely one of the more entertaining young actresses to watch on screen. Her flair for the slapstick is a rare quality in actors these days, and it’s refreshing to see someone who’s not afraid to get down and dirty if the script calls for it. The rest of the cast is made up of the usual teen comedy stereotypes, but Vinnie Jones (as the team’s soccer coach) and David Cross (as the school’s principal) both turn in amusing supporting performances. Still, you can’t really expect “She’s the Man” to be revolutionary, because it has plenty of problems (mostly with pacing), but it’s an enjoyable trip to the movies nonetheless. Teenage girls will love it, their parents will tolerate it, and the studio will turn a profit. What more could you ask for?
Not only is “She’s the Man” one of the best Shakespearan adaptations in a long while, but it’s also got some great special features to boot. Complete with a making-of documentary (“Making the Man”), a short featurette on casting the film (“The Troupe”) and another on the story of “Twelfth Night,” the single-disc release also includes three commentary tracks. The first track is the most entertaining, as it features director Andy Flickman and Amanda Bynes, as well as several other cast members, while the third track acts more like a Pop-Up Video commentary with Shakespeare, soccer and movie trivia littered throughout. Also appearing on the release are nine deleted scenes (with optional commentary), a three-minute gag reel, a cast photo album and the theatrical trailer.