Never Been Kissed

on April 09, 1999 by Bridget Byrne
   This refreshingly different look at the horrors and joys of high school may revolve around all the standard ingredients--including mean glamour girls, shunned nerds, randy jocks and the importance of prom night--but the subject matter has been approached with a kind heart, a level head and a sense of humor which, though sometimes corny, is ever crude. This spoof study of today's teenagers is charmingly different from the recent rash of vicious, angry and vulgar movies about adolescent sex and violence.
   Drew Barrymore ("The Wedding Singer") is Josie, a sharp-brained but socially inept copywriter at the Chicago Sun-Times longing to become a reporter. Slapped with her first assignment by her newsroom boss (played with his accustomed manic glee by Garry Marshall), she finds herself undercover back in the high school milieu, where she'd had such a miserable time years before.
   She doesn't fare much better this time trying to fit in. But eventually, with the help of her slacker brother who tries to turn the clock back in the hopes of jumpstarting his failed ambition to be a ball player, she finds acceptance with the cool crowd. Her transformation from ugly duckling to swan is complicated both by her maturer sense of values and by her love for the nice-guy teacher.
   The movie has a little bit of a message about tolerance and morality, but it's also fun, cute, silly, backed by lively songs, and, ultimately, sweetly romantic. Barrymore throws her heart and soul into being both goofy and lovely, and so sustains the movie through its clunky moments. Arquette fits the brother role a bit more awkwardly, perhaps because the role itself seems more a plot device than a well-conceived character. Michael Vartan is fine as the English Lit teacher and object of his female students' affections.
   Supporting roles have been well cast to give more dimension than might be expected to the in-crowd, the outsiders and to Josie's newspaper colleagues. Leelee Sobieski ("Eyes Wide Shut") as the school's brain, who's bold enough to defy all taunts, is particularly striking. But above all it's Barrymore who makes the film work, once again demonstrating the winning combination of old-fashioned star power and modern sensibility which makes her so watchable. Starring Drew Barrymore, David Arquette , Michael Vartan and Molly Shannon. Directed by Raja Gosnell. Written by Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein. Produced by Sandy Isaac and Nancy Juvonen. A Fox release. Romantic comedy. Rated PG-13 for sexual content, drug-related material and some language. Running time: 107 min
Tags: Drew Barrymore, David Arquette, Michael Vartan, Molly Shannon, Leelee Sobieski, Raja Gosnell, Nancy Junoven, teen, high school, romance, journalist

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