Another Shakespeare play gets a teen makeover with She’s the Man, the latest proof that Amanda Bynes should’ve stuck with her Nickelodeon show rather than jumping to the big screen.
Bynes was pretty funny on her variety show. Funny enough that I think she could’ve graduated to SNL or MADtv someday. Instead, she’s being marketed as a teen queen, and it’s just not working out. All of her films, from Big Fat Liar to this latest misfire, cast her in lame-brain plots that require massive mugging. Bynes was good at mugging on TV, but at the movies, she’s in dire need of a good director to reel her in.
This time out, she plays Viola, a wannabe soccer player whose collegiate dreams are dashed when her high school cuts the girls’ team. When told that girls can’t try out for the boys’ squad, she hatches a plan to impersonate her twin brother, Sebastian—who looks nothing like her—attend his private school while he sneaks off to London and conquer all through soccer.
First off, Bynes has little to nothing about her that suggests manliness, so making her up to look like a guy is pretty much a lost cause. She gets some fake sideburns, a bowl cut and bushier eyebrows. The end result is that she looks like Amanda Bynes with fake sideburns, a bowl cut and bushier eyebrows. Her vocal and physical performance doesn’t help. She deepens her voice a bit, gives Sebastian some sort of redneck/hip-hop accent that makes no sense and uses lame slang that would get her instantly pegged as an imposter.
Sure, we’re supposed to suspend disbelief and accept that everybody in the male dorm is dumb enough not to realize there’s a woman in their midst. When they find tampons in her luggage, they accept that the product can be used for nosebleeds during an intense soccer game. Nobody in the room puts two and two together and realizes the guy with the squeaky voice and girly butt might be a lady in disguise.
As with Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, all kinds of romantic entanglements ensue. Viola gets a crush on her roommate, Duke (played winningly by Channing Tatum, who is actually roundabout 30 in real life), while Duke falls for Olivia (a charming Laura Ramsey, also too old to play a teenager). When Sebastian returns from London, all hell breaks loose right in time for the big soccer game, where true gender identities are revealed through a series of flashing scenes.
There are intermittent laughs, and most of them come from supporting characters. David Cross is funny and creepy as the overly accommodating principal, who might as well be the clueless Tobias moonlighting from Arrested Development. Julie Haggerty does her ditzy shtick as Viola’s mom, and while that’s all she does these days, it’s a funny shtick nevertheless. As for Bynes, she does get a good laugh out of taking a soccer ball to the crotch. Other than that, she’s quite painful to watch. The film reminded me of that shitty high school football comedy, One of the Guys, which ended with the female masquerading as a guy flashing her breasts on screen, in full view. That doesn’t happen here because there are no exposed Bynes boobs in teen flicks. It’s in the manual.
I’m thinking this movie isn’t going to do so well. Just a hunch. Bynes has yet to find a major breakthrough film, and soccer, while a worldwide phenomenon, has failed, as of yet, to grab hold of American enthusiasm. As for Shakespeare, unless it’s an update of Romeo & Juliet with Leonardo drinking poison and screaming a lot, most teens probably don’t give a damn.