Like, So Not the Bard

Friday, March 17, 2006

"She's the Man" is another gate-crasher at the let's-do-a-mediocre-update-of-Shakespeare party.

In this teen-oriented tribute (is "tackification" a word?) of "Twelfth Night," Amanda Bynes plays Viola, a soccer jock at a prep school, whose team is cut for lack of numbers. Laughed off the field when she tries out for the boys' team, she's determined to give those sexist players their comeuppance. The opportunity presents itself when Viola's twin brother, Sebastian (James Kirk) decides to blow off his first few weeks at his new school so he can take his rock band to a music contest in London.

Disguising herself as Sebastian, Viola shows up at her brother's school and joins the school team. Olivia finds herself rooming with, and attracted to, Duke (Channing Tatum), a jock with six-pack abs and a one-bottle IQ, who has eyes only for blonde queen Olivia (Laura Ramsey). But Olivia likes Viola, whom she thinks is Sebastian and -- you get the convoluted idea.

Bynes's rubbery expressions -- she seems to be made of tanned putty -- are occasionally funny. But there's no way any human with better than myopic vision couldn't see through her disguise. (If Viola's obvious wig and female figure aren't enough, there's always her high-treble voice, which, no matter how low she tries to make it sound, screams out I am a girl .) For the teen audience this is aimed for, none of this will matter. But once again, Hollywood makes the mistaken assumption that cribbing Shakespearean plots and dumping the poetry will somehow download the Bard's brilliance.

-- Desson Thomson

She's the Man PG-13, 105 minutes Contains some sexual situations. Area theaters.

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