Making the Grades
The road of child stardom can be dangerous, and Amanda Bynes is doing her best to carefully navigate its hairpin turns. Commenting in the past that she wants to choose her movie projects very carefully, the actress subtly insinuated she hoping to avoid some of the pitfalls experienced by her other teenaged contemporaries. Now, on the eve of her 20th birthday, Miss Bynes is opening in her first "adult" film--in the role of a high school student.
Her character, a tomboy named Viola, is determined to play soccer, even though lack of interest has shut down the girl's team at her school. So, when her twin brother Sebastian (James Kirk) pulls her into a plan to cover for him for a couple of weeks while he escapes to London to pursue his musical aspirations, Viola thinks she's stumbled upon an incredible opportunity: Attend her brother's prep school under his name and she can play soccer on the boy's team.
Fortunately, the conniving siblings are blessed with two of the most blithe parents on Earth (the rest of the adults in this film are equally gullible). Taking advantage of their divorced status, the pair tells their mother Viola is off to see their father for a couple of weeks... and tells their Dad she's visiting with Mom. But the shell game doesn't end there.
With a little help from her effeminate friend Paul (Jonathan Sadowski), Viola gets a makeover that puts more "tom" into the "boy." Showing up at Sebastian's school, she/he checks into the dorm and discovers her roommate (Channing Tatum) is a handsome hunk of soccer player (are we surprised?) with eyes for a beautiful blonde named Olivia (Laura Ramsey). However, Olivia is head over heels with who she thinks is Sebastian. Meanwhile Monique (Alex Breckenridge), the girl in love with the real Sebastian, is determined to find out why her man has suddenly stopped talking to her.
Drawing upon Shakespeare's Twelfth Night for inspiration, this high school soap opera bubbles over with moments for Ms. Bynes to showcase her particular brand of physical comedy and over-the-top performance. Although it's hard to imagine any other female entertainer in this age range with the courage and personality necessary to pull it off, this attempt to break into adulthood really isn't letting this actress try anything new.
All the same, she does keep the script true to its Shakespearian roots, using gigantic gestures and an exaggerated delivery that people in the cheap seats of the Globe would be certain to see. And, as was often the case with the Bard's works, the audience needs to believe the characters are not smart enough to detect Olivia and Sebastian are not the same person, even though you'd have to be legally blind not to figure it out.
Falling into the milder end of the PG-13 rating, the film does contain sexually oriented comments surrounding Viola's ploy, like trying to explain why she carries around tampons by sticking one in her nostril to demonstrates how they can stop nosebleeds. And when the inevitable moment comes for her to reveal her true identity, she does so by lifting her shirt in view of a crowded arena. (Her brother reciprocates by dropping his pants.) Absolutely no nudity is seen, but parents may have concerns about the exhibitionist acts.
Other confrontations leave girls and guys engaging in physical fights involving slapping, punching, and other hand-to-hand retaliation, with little or no consequences shown for their actions. While this may prove reasonably entertaining for teens and 'tweens, She's the Man's happy-ever-after-ending may not be most parents' idea of a perfect ending to a two-week lie.