She's the Man

(2006) ** 1/2 Pg-13
105 min. DreamWorks. Director: Andy Fickman. Cast: Amanda Bynes, Channing Tatum, Laura Ramsey, Vinnie Jones, David Cross.

Much is wrong with teen comedy She's the Man. Even setting aside skepticism for another Shakespeare-derived movie to jettison the Bard's language (as O was to Othello and 10 Things I Hate About You was to The Taming of the Shrew, She's the Man is to Twelfth Night), She's the Man celebrates Amanda Bynes' undercover conversion to boyhood with a perky-punk cover of "Love is All Around." Soon, Bynes is spewing something a lot more like ebonics than eboynics, everyone's stripping down, catfights and dawg-fights break out, and Malvolio's a pet tarantula.

And yet the crowd-pleasing She's the Man gets by because it knows it's dorky. It's happily dorky. It's proudly dorky. Bynes plays Viola, a dedicated high-school soccer player whose school, in a flagrant disregard for Title IX, drops her girls' soccer team. On an impulse, Viola decides to steal the identity of her out-of-town twin brother Sebastian, leave Cornwall High, and earn a slot on the Illyria High men's soccer team. With bound breasts and a pageboy wig, Viola plans to infiltrate guy-dom, but doesn't figure on the potential romantic complications: falling for her hunky roommate Duke Orsino (Channing Tatum) and stirring the romantic interest of Duke's crush Olivia (Laura Ramsey).

The gender-bending farce resembles Just One of the Guys at least as much as Twelfth Night, and director Andy Fickman (Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical) dashes out of the gate with a manic energy he can't sustain for 105 minutes. Popping her eyes and chewing on an imaginary cud, Bynes gives the kind of performance that invites you to look away, and...yet...I...can't... Credit is due to the savvy adult casting: Julie Hagerty as Viola's mom, obsessed with her daughter coming out as a debutante; Vinnie Jones (but of course) as the "football" coach, and David Cross as the bizarrely friendly headmaster.

The screenplay is by 10 Things I Hate About You scribes Karen McCullah Lutz & Kirsten Smith (with Ewan Leslie), and when it comes to teen movies, anyway, they don't much fix what ain't broke. She's the Man skews much more heavily to full-bore slapstick and "riotous" gender-transgressive shtick (like Bynes's boy recovering from girly sensitivity by growling, "I'd hit that" or trying to silence her "I'm a Barbie Girl" ring-tone) than its teen-Shakespeare predecessor, and it's hard to imagine any of this set of young, pretty actors scoring an Oscar nom (as did Heath Ledger) or appearing in movies like Brick (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Edmond (Julia Stiles) seven years from now.

But wasn't it the Bard who said, "Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them"? Or did I hear that in a teen movie?

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