Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

She's The Man

Illustration for article titled She's The Man

The notion that Shakespeare's plays work no matter how they're updated gets tested again in She's The Man, which ports the plot of Twelfth Night into a private high school named Illyria. There, a soccer-loving kid played by Amanda Bynes poses as her twin brother in order to defeat her old high school, which prevented her from joining the boys' team when the girls' team shut down. Just like in Shakespeare—except, of course, for all that soccer.

It isn't the worst idea for a Shakespeare rewrite. After all, 10 Things I Hate About You—co-written by two of She's The Man's screenwriters—took greater liberties with The Taming Of The Shrew. But then 10 Things didn't depend on Bynes' cross-dressing skills, which are, to put it politely, undernourished. She comes out of the makeup process looking more like a prepubescent boy than an athletic teen, which is a constant distraction. But it isn't as big a problem as its star's interpretation of teenage manhood, which for some reason involves talking like an effeminate Alabaman. When Bynes, feigning lust to impress some new friends, looks at a girl's ass and says, "Ah'd tap thaaat," you can almost hear the film sputtering to a stop in embarrassment. Bynes appears in practically every scene, and the film seems to have been designed as a showcase for her comedic skills, which she apparently left behind in the trailer.

That's too bad, because there's potential in the idea of bending genders in a high-school setting, where everyone learns that wandering out of accepted roles comes with a price. But that potential is left almost entirely untapped in favor of broad comedy, girl-fights, and farcical situations that wouldn't make it into an episode of Three's Company. Only undiscriminating teenage girls, English-lit grad students looking for thesis fodder, and die-hard Mr. Show devotees who want to see David Cross wear a silly beard in the part of Bynes' wacky principal need bother with this one.