She's The Man

on March 17, 2006 by Kim Williamson
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On the one hand, there are cross-dressing comedies "Some Like It Hot," "Victor/Victoria" and "Tootsie." On the other hand, there is "She's the Man." In the former group, there's great acting, well-drawn characters, smart writing, and insightful directing. In the new DreamWorks release, a modernization of The Bard's "Twelfth Night" for today's tweenage distaff set, there's overdone acting, Shakespeare-lite characters, typing, and below all some of the most inept direction of recent cinema. One recalls the line from that "Tootsie" about how far a camera on a New York set should be pulled back so that Dustin Hoffman's Dorothy might look attractive; "how do you feel about Cleveland" came the reply. Audiences of "She's the Man" might feel themselves trying to lean back to Calcutta, given the overly broad playing that helmer Andy Fickman has demanded from his appealing cast. He seems not to want their elbows in your ribs; he wants them driven through, popping out the other side.

And yet that cast plays with such honesty and guilelessness in their telling of this she-loves-but-he-loves-but-she-loves-but-he-loves type of tale that moviegoers are likely to emerge from "She's the Man" with smiles on their faces. Amanda Bynes, who as in her earlier "What a Girl Wants" has a natural screen charm, plays soccer phenom Viola; wanting to prove she can play with the boys, she pretends to be her lookalike brother Sebastian (James Kirk) and enrolls at a prep school, where she/he rooms and falls in love with team star Duke (played beyond simple good looks by Channing Tatum). Duke, however, has been smitten by Olivia (an enchantingly intelligent Laura Ramsey). Olivia, meanwhile, has fallen for Viola -- that is, for Sebastian. Contretemps ensue. Despite a couple of crass characterizations and crass moments, the overall feel of the film is a strikingly pleasant one, making "She's the Man" one of those rare movies that aren't so good, yet you wouldn't mind seeing it again. Starring Amanda Bynes, Channing Tatum and Laura Ramsey. Directed by Andy Fickman. Written by Ewan Leslie, Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith. Produced by Lauren Shuler Donner and Ewan Leslie. A DreamWorks release. Comedy. Rated PG-13 for some sexual material. Running time: 105 min

Tags: Amanda Bynes, Channing Tatum, Laura Ramsey, Andy Fickman, Ewan Leslie, Karen McCullah Lutz, Kirsten Smith, Lauren Shuler Donner, DreamWorks, Comedy, soccer, cross-dressing, Viola, Olivia, Duke
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