For some people, high school is synonymous with prison. While a select few are the wardens who run the system, thanks to their popularity, others simply attempt to endure detention until it ends with graduation. Either way, few get through high school without some impact on their psyche.
That certainly is the case for Marni (Kristen Bell). Brace-faced and pimpled, the geeky student put up with years of bullying from Joanna (Odette Yustman) and the other popular girls at Ridgefield High. Luckily Marni thinks all that drama of yesteryear is behind her when she receives a promotion and becomes a vice president in a New York public relations firm.
However all her insecurities come crashing back when she goes home for her older brother’s (James Wolk) wedding and discovers his fiancée is none other than Joanna. Though the rest of the family, including Marni’s father (Victor Garber) and little brother (Ben Unger), adore the bride-to-be, Marni knows her for what she really is and determines to expose her before the nuptials.
But the young executive isn’t the only one dealing with her demons from her past. When Joanna’s Aunt Mona (Sigourney Weaver) shows up at the family dinner, Marni’s mother, Gail (Jamie Lee Curtis), suddenly finds herself besieged by bad memories of the now highly successful businesswoman.
To its credit, You Again tries to say good things about leaving the past in the past, giving people second chances and practicing what you preach to your children. Unfortunately the presentation of these positive messages is usually ill timed and profoundly clumsy. Part of the problem lies in the characters. Joanna claims she has repented of her former actions, but the cat claws are quick to come out when she gets in a scrap with her groom’s younger sister. And in the time it takes Marni to pick up her luggage at the airport, she transforms from a confident PR executive into a klutzy, whining milquetoast. Even Gail and Mona engage in spiteful behaviors that are way beneath adults of their age and standing. Unwarranted, predictable scenes, including one in which Gail drops Mona’s expensive earring down the drain, also clutter up the screen instead of advancing the story.
With almost nonexistent profanities and only brief, randy comments courtesy of Grandma Bunny (Betty White), the film’s biggest content concerns lie in the mean-spirited depictions of bullying that start in high school and continue right up to the wedding rehearsal dinner.
Refusing to let bygones be bygones and trying to bludgeon apologies out of each other, these women do little to follow their own advice. And they do even less to convince viewers that life doesn’t have to be dictated by what happened in high school.