- Rated PG-13
- Buy the DVD
All photos © Universal Pictures
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
ou’ve gotta give credit to Amanda Bynes for keeping it real. While other young actresses are out there trying to prove their worth in several different mediums (getting coked up and arrested along the way), Amanda’s perfectly content with doing what she does best. Whether you’re a fan of teen comedies or not, the former Nickelodeon child star has managed to carve a respectable career in the genre by starring in films that, with any other female lead, would most likely feel just as stale as the hundreds of others before it. Bynes, on the other hand, not only makes these films mildly entertaining to watch, but is also pretty damn charming herself.
Sure, the last thing we all need is another teen comedy based on a pre-existing work of fiction (especially one as popular as "Snow White"), but if there’s anyone up to the task, it’s certainly Bynes, whose re-imagination of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” (“She’s the Man”) was far better than anyone could have possibly imagined. “Sydney White” isn’t quite the magic fairy tale from which it was based, but it’s a decent outing nonetheless, and one that should cement the actress as the go-to girl for any other classics in need of a 21st century makeover.
Bynes stars as the title character, a tomboy of sorts who was raised by her plumber dad (John Schneider) and his construction worker buddies after her mother died when she was nine. Now 18, Sydney leaves for her first year of college with only one thing on her mind: pledge for her mother’s sorority and make life-long friends. A legacy in the Kappa Phi Nu house, president Rachel Witchburn (Sara Paxton) is forced to allow Sidney the chance to rush, but when she begins dating Rachel’s ex-boyfriend, campus stud Tyler Prince (Matt Long), Sydney is denied membership and kicked out onto the curb. Lucky for her, Sydney is offered a room at The Vortex – a rundown house located on Greek Row where seven dorky outcasts live – but when the house is condemned by Rachel in order to break ground on a Greek-only student center, Sydney convinces her new roommates to take a stand against the evil witch and run for student council.
Made up almost completely of Hollywood’s geek elite (several of which have appeared on shows like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Veronica Mars” and “Freaks & Geeks”), the seven dwarfs are well-represented throughout. Sneezy (Jack Carpenter), the clear-cut leader of the group, has a nasty allergy problem; Doc (Jeremy Howard) remains in school even though he’s already graduated; Bashful (Adam Hendershott) uses a hand puppet when he talks; Grumpy (Danny Strong) fronts an anti-establishment blog; Sleepy (Donte Bonner) is a Nigerian transfer student who still hasn’t adapted to the time change; Happy (Samm Levine) is a wannabe ladies man; and Dopey (Arnie Pantoja) is, well, a dope.
If you think the film is above getting too literal in its translation of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, think again. Aside from the insanely obvious (like the last names of its leading characters), the story also features it’s very own magical mirror (in this case, a hot or not website), includes the oh-so-famous “hi-ho” march (using the phrase as an insult instead of a sing-song tune), and even squeezes in the poison apple subplot. Don’t worry, Sydney isn’t actually poisoned by a piece of fruit – her Macbook is hacked. “That’s one poisoned Apple,” says the evil hacker who does the deed in exchange for a mega-pack of Hot Pockets. In the words of Patton Oswalt: whackity schmackity doo! Ridiculously cheesy? Perhaps, but there’s still plenty to like about the film that keeps it from registering as a complete failure.
It’s definitely not director Joe Nussbaum, however, who displays a total of three different camera moves throughout the film’s 90-minute runtime. Though his short film, “George Lucas in Love,” earned the filmmaker considerable attention a few years ago, his last two projects (the teeny bopper flick “Sleepover” and the direct-to-video dud “American Pie: The Naked Mile”) aren’t exactly indicative of the kind of career most directors dream of. Thankfully, a film like “Sydney White” isn’t too dependent on any one thing, and though Amanda Bynes delivers yet another solid performance as the charming everywoman, it’s the cast of dorks who ultimately steals the show. I’d like to say I was surprised, but with seasoned vets like Levine and Strong in their zone, it’s hard to expect anything less.