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As a teen comedy, it works

Reel Critics

March 24, 2006|By Michael Eidam

When seeing a farce involving a girl who is forced by circumstances to pretend to be a boy, you can expect to have to check your skepticism at the door. If you want to enjoy "She's the Man," be prepared to suspend your disbelief. If you can manage that, as well as stomach the bad acting in many scenes (the first 30 minutes are the worst), you may discover that the movie works as what it is ? a teeny-bopper, feel-good romantic comedy.

Amanda Bynes plays Viola, the star of the women's soccer team. Her school cuts the team because of a lack of interest, and for some reason the girls are not notified until they show up for practice.

These girls are scholarship-caliber athletes who are having big opportunity yanked away from them. They want to try out for the men's team.

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Rather than politely telling them it's against the rules (we learn this later), the coach goes on a painfully overacted diatribe about how girls aren't as good as boys. When Viola looks for support to her boyfriend, Justin (Robert Hoffman) ? the captain of the men's team ? he says the coach is right. To her credit, she promptly dumps him.

Meanwhile, Viola's twin brother Sebastian (James Kirk) is conveniently enrolled at the rival school, Illyria, and is also conveniently leaving for London to pursue his music career. Viola decides to take his place and try out for the men's team so she can kick her now ex-boyfriend's butt on the field. (How this would help Viola and not Sebastian get a scholarship is one of the things you shouldn't bother worrying about.)

One of the most implausible aspects of the movie is Viola's horrible imitation of a boy. It's meant to be bad and therefore funny, but it's too far off to be credible or even make any sense. After all, she's pretending to be her brother ? why doesn't she just imitate her brother? Instead, her version of Sebastian speaks with a Southern accent and talks in hip-hop lingo in an attempt to fit in with the guys. It fails miserably, and they avoid her at every turn.

Viola's "Sebastian" tries out for Illyria's men's team but fails to make first string. She gets discouraged and wants to give the whole plan up.

In attempt to redeem her reputation, Viola's friends visit the local hangout posing as "Sebastian's" ex-girlfriends, still pining for him. When the guys see how good "Sebastian" is with the ladies, they all flock to Viola for advice with girls.

Viola makes a deal with her roommate, Duke (Channing Tatum). If he'll help her get better at soccer, she'll help him get a date with his dream girl, Olivia (Laura Ramsey). As might be expected, Olivia falls for "Sebastian" while Viola starts to fall for Duke.

The movie gets considerably better at this point. It's not hilarious, but it does have some really funny moments and a couple of heartfelt exchanges between Viola and Duke. And the film should also be credited with passing on the cheap and tasteless laughs that infect so many other teen comedies.

Despite its flaws, the movie manages to be a fun ride, and Bynes is charming and likable, even if she is a terrible excuse for a guy.

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