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'Kissed': A Scoop of Plain Vanilla

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 9, 1999; Page C4

  Movie Critic

'Never Been Kissed'
Drew Barrymore goes back to high school in "Never Been Kissed." (Warner Bros.)

Raja Gosnell
Drew Barrymore;
David Arquette;
Molly Shannon;
John C. Reilly;
Garry Marshall;
Michal Vartan;
Leelee Sobieski;
Jessica Alba;
Marley Shelton;
Jordan Ladd;
Jeremy Jordan
Running Time:
1 hour, 47 minutes
For a marijuana brownie and a sex education class
Teen movies are suddenly popping up like pimples. "Never Been Kissed" is like one of those big fat red ones that blooms on your nose right before a big date: predictable, slightly painful and as embarrassing as all get-out.

Drew Barrymore, the picture's executive producer and star, has a cover girl's luminous complexion and a smile that radiates warmth like a space heater. But even she can't salvage this implausible yet predictable story of Josie Geller, a mousy 25-year-old copy editor who longs to become a reporter on the Chicago Sun-Times. (Note to copy desk: Your peers at the Sun-Times have private offices, secretaries and participate in top-echelon planning meetings.)

Josie may be a capable grammarian and a human thesaurus, but other than an utter lack of fashion sense, she shares none of the annoying traits native to the hard-nosed newshound. As luck would have it, the paper's tyrannical editor (Garry Marshall in a spittle-flying turn) gives Josie her first story. To get it, she must go undercover as a senior at South Glen High.

Though she's older than her classmates, Josie is socially awkward and emotionally retarded, and she immediately provokes the contempt of the stereotypically mean-spirited popular kids. The girls are self-centered, sluttishly attired Barbie dolls. The boys, a bit more diverse but just as vile, include bullying jocks, snotty preppies and their entourages.

Josie, whose high school years brought pain and humiliation, is soon adopted by one of the brainy outcasts, Aldys (the stunning Leelee Sobieski), and Aldys's cronies in the math club. It's hard to believe that a young woman with Helen Hunt's willowy grace and Jodie Foster's plucky intelligence would ever be snubbed and dubbed "Alpo." The boys would be panting at her door.

Josie and Aldys become best friends, until Josie is scooped by the Chicago Tribune and her editor insists she start hanging with the in crowd. Tutored by her brother (David Arquette), a former Big Man on Campus who also re-enrolls in high school, Josie begins to get a handle on the popularity thing.

The movie's most compelling scenes – for adults anyway – involve Josie's gorgeous English teacher, Guy (Michael Vartan), who finds himself attracted to his favorite young student. Though Josie is drawn to Guy as well, she resists the temptation to throw off her disguise and risk alienating him.

Meanwhile, back in the newsroom, the staff stops everything to watch Josie's rather prosaic adventures, which are captured on video via a tiny camera concealed in her brooch a la "The Truman Show" and "EDtv." They may very well be the only audience for this prosaic piffle.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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