The minute the movie began with the loud blaring music, and the words “Can’t stop this – no escape,” exploded through my head, I knew that was exactly what I wanted to do – escape watching She’s The Man. So it goes without saying this is not a movie intended to charm adults.
The next startling revelation I had was when the words, based on the play Twelfth Night, rolled across the screen. Apparently writer-producer Ewan Leslie, a self-proclaimed lifelong Shakespeare fan who collaborated with Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith on the final screenplay, decided to intertwine the elements of a soccer rivalry, mistaken identities and romantic triangles into this teen comedy. For those who dislike Shakespeare, trust me, except some of the character’s names, there’s not even the slightest resemblance to anything the Bard ever created in this film.
When a girls’ high school soccer team gets cut due to a money shortage, the girls feel this is unfair because the boys still get to play. In today’s world, the simple word “discrimination” would have done the trick. But lead player Viola (Amanda Bynes) has what she thinks is a better idea, although one far more complicated and improbable.
Viola’s twin brother Sebastian (James Kirk) is to attend a new boarding school where he will play soccer as well. Sebastian, however, wants to take a two-week trip to London to play with his band so he asks Viola to cover with his teachers.
She has a better idea. Since they look so much alike, she’ll disguise herself as Sebastian, take his place on the soccer team, and show everyone that girls can play just as good as the boys. Viola will be especially happy to show up her ex, Justin (Robert Hoffman) and his Cornwall teammates, as he made her feel insignificant on the playing field as well.
The transformation takes place so quickly Viola has little time to think things through. She tells her mother, Daphne (Julie Hagerty) she’s going to her dad’s for a few weeks. (There’s no explanation of covering her absence at her own school.)
Viola gets her first realization of what she’s doing when she walks into Sebastian’s dorm room and faces Duke (Channing Tatum). With her big eyes and chubby cheeks, Viola looks nothing like a boy. This is one of the loose threads in the film, as in the beginning she goes to a friend who is a hairdresser and gets her hair cut short, and midway through the film there’s a scene where she’s wearing a wig.
Duke thinks there’s something seriously weird about Viola/Sebastian, and okay, it’s a stretch to think he wouldn’t know this is a girl. But when Viola’s friends set up a bunch of girls to pretend that Viola/Sebastian is “hot” and they all want him, Duke and his peers see Viola/Sebastian in a new light.
There’s a complex romance triangle about Olivia (Laura Ramsey), another girl at school who falls for Viola/Sebastian, but Duke really likes her, and Viola/Sebastian soon likes Duke. Other subplots include Viola’s mother wanting her to be part of the debutant ball, and of course all the action on the soccer field and Viola/Sebastian managing to stay out of the showers with the guys.
Just as she has things manageable, her brother returns from his trip. Now she has to figure out how to deal with him, keep Duke and Justin from killing each other both on the soccer field and off and convincing coach Dinklage (Vinnie Jones) that she should be a first string player in the big game against Cornwell.
The teen actors, several of them fairly new in feature films, do a fair job in this movie. Bynes, who often resembles a young Sally Field in many of her scenes, is a stand out. Teens know her as Holly Tyler on the television WB series What I Like About You and from her role in the film comedy What a Girl Wants. Bynes tackles the ridiculous plot with gusto and offers a glimpse that she has the potential to handle far more profound roles.
She’s The Man, with lots of music, some funny and not so funny dialogue, and some very goofy and childish moments, has a very limited audience. Parents will not be pleased if they’re dragged to the theater with teens for this fluff. Teen boys will not be tempted to see the movie even with the sports angle. Basically it will appeal to teen girls between 12 and 15. But hey, they need entertainment, too.
Photo credits: Rob McEwan/DreamWorks Pictures and Lakeshore Entertainment