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She's All That

Reviewed By Todd LaPlace
Posted 07/09/05 23:17:19

"The movie’s busy. Yeah, busy wiggin’."
1 stars (Sucks)

Did you know that Rachel Leigh Cook’s character, Laney Boggs, is named after two Winona Ryder roles? Boggs comes from “Edward Scissorhands” and Laney come from “Reality Bites.” Both of those movies are much, much better than this one.

Let me start by saying that I mean the following statement to be taken as constructive criticism for its subject, and should not be seen as a cheap attempt too slander a former It-teen star for her monumental fall from grace. I swear I am not that big a jerk.

Why the hell did Rachel Leigh Cook have a career? What deal did she have to make with the devil to make it onto the A-list? The former anti-drug violent femme, Cook went from virtual unknown to the head of the young Hollywood class with one movie, teen train wreck “She’s All That.” Faster than you can say Mrs. Federline, though, she ruined her career by being a little too acceptance happy when it came to her films, as such prize choices like “Antitrust” and “Get Carter” beautifully demonstrate.

I guess that saddest part of Cook’s bell-shaped career curve is she actually did show some promise at the peak, director Robert Iscove’s aforementioned teeny-bopper crapfest. As anyone who saw “10 Things I Hate About You” knows, it is possible to rise above such beginnings when the young actors show promise, even when working with such dismal material. Cook actually managed to infuse the role of Laney Boggs, the very hot artistic outcast that was deemed her school’s ultimate reject for having long, unruly hair, with some new flair that made it seem like she would turn out to be something special after she paid her dues in some smaller films. Alas, it just wasn’t to be, and so we’re just left with one bad movie to witness all that she could be.

That is, of course, if you can stomach watching such an outrageously horrible movie in the first place. As the kick start of the late ’90s teen film resurgence, “She’s All That” has the dubious honor of being the most well-known and probably the least well-received of the bunch. A lot of it has to do with the odd casting choices. A strong collection of then-nobody supporting characters are continuously solid, while the lead is a strong contender to be named the world’s worst living actor. Freddie Prinze Jr. plays “all-around bad-ass mamba-jahamba” Zach Siler, the prefect student and athlete whose biggest problem is which Ivy League school to take his cherry red car to. Oh, to have his problems. He does manage to lose his girlfriend (Jodi Lyn O’Keefe) to a very Puck-like vet of the “Real World” (Matthew Lillard), but she’s so much of a skanky bitch, it makes no sense why he’s even with her in the first place. In order to soothe his broken heart, he does what every high school senior would naturally do; he makes a bet with his friends (Paul Walker and “The West Wing’s” Dulé Hill) to turn the school’s biggest reject — the politically-aware daughter of a pool guy, Laney — into prom queen. .

The reason “She’s All That” fails as miserably as it does, has to be because the filmmakers were so busy casting as many young hot actors as they could, that they forgot to write a screenplay. R. Lee Fleming Jr., just off the short-lived Olson twin show “Two of a Kind,” leaves so many questions unanswered, just to keep the movie moving at a reasonably quick pace. For instance, why do Zach and his sister Mackenzie (Anna Paquin, looking very out of place) go to different schools? Why does Zach, the holder of the fourth highest GPA in the class and acceptance letters of Harvard and Yale, not understand his sister when she uses the term “rebound skank”? And what exactly does Laney’s brother Simon (Kieran Culkin) do in the cafeteria? Does he really get paid to roll around on rollerblades and offer to grind pepper on Sarah Michelle Gellar’s cold pizza?

But even beyond the holes, the writing’s just lazy. Zach has no motivation to really complain about any of things he spends the movie whining about. Yeah, his dad (Tim Matheson) wants him to go to Dartmouth, but there’s no real reason given for why Zach should or shouldn’t want to follow in his footsteps. And Laney’s sole reason for accepting a first date from Zach is a simple prodding from best friend Jesse (Elden Henson) and her sole reason for leaving is getting a compliment about her eyes. Does that even make sense? The audience’s saving grace is by the time such questions come up, you’re really just trying to see how many celebrities you can count among the supporting cast, and how many of those should be thankful they didn’t kill their careers on this crap.

It’s kind of pathetic that this movie is still floating around with the plethora of better teen-centric films out there. Pretty much the only redeeming value this picture’s got are a strong performance from Cook, a pretty supporting cast that’s fun to recognize and a one-dimensional villainous ex that actually manages provide the film’s few entertaining moments (like calling Laney a “waste of perfectly good yearbook space”) when she’s not suffering from poorly done redubbing problems (when talking about her shoo-in-ness as prom queen). Such praises are really stretching, though, as this film is bad enough that John Hughes should want to kill himself just so he can spin in his grave.

If you’re interested in good teen films, I recommend “American Graffiti” and “The 400 Blows.” If you’re interested in teen comedies, I recommend “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “Pretty in Pink” (but be warned “The Breakfast Club” is overrated). If you’re interested in the most elusive thing in contemporary cinema — a good Freddie Prinze Jr. movie — I recommend sole entry in the category, “The House of Yes.” So basically, the things that could have made “She’s All That” better are French subtitles, appearances from Matthew Broderick and Molly Ringwald and incest.

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