tek's rating: ½

She's All That (PG-13)
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Caution: spoilers.

This came out in 1999, and I must have first seen it sometime in the early 2000s. I watched it again in 2023 to write a review.

So, there's this high school class president named Zack Siler (Freddie Prinze Jr.) who returns to school after spring break and gets dumped by his girlfriend, Taylor Vaughan (Jodi Lyn O'Keefe). While she's explaining the breakup there is a fairly neat gimmick of having us see the two of them embedded in the memory she's describing. She had met a (fictional) former star of MTV's "The Real World", Brock Hudson (Matthew Lillard), and started dating him. But she still expects to go to the prom with Zack in six weeks, because the two of them are pretty much a lock for being voted king and queen. However, Zack believes he could make any girl in school popular enough to become prom queen, and his sleazy friend Dean (Paul Walker) bets him he can't. Their other friend, Preston (Dulé Hill) thinks the whole bet is a bad idea, but Zack accepts the bet. Dean chooses an antisocial art student named Laney Boggs (Rachael Leigh Cook) as the girl Zack will have to make popular. At first, she wants nothing to do with him, because she doesn't trust him or his motives (which is fair). I do like that she thought he wanted her to tutor him, but he immediately informed her that he's already near the top of the class. (I just think that's an interesting subversion of a cliched trope.) In fact there's a whole subplot about his not knowing what college he wants to go to, despite having received acceptance letters from a bunch of really good schools, a fact which he hides from his father. (I first thought he might not have even sent in applications, so that's another subversion of expectations that I liked.)

Anyway... I guess Laney eventually starts to like Zack, and he starts to have sincere feelings for her. His younger sister, Mackenzie (Anna Paquin) gives her a makeover, which I thought was completely unnecessary. (The main issue here is that people shouldn't have to change who they are to appeal to other people, but incidentally, it's also usually the case in stories like this that I find the girl getting a makeover as good or better looking before than after.) So I liked that Mac called Laney "new and... not improved, but different". And... what else can I tell you? I should mention that Laney has a younger brother named Simon (Kieran Culkin), whom Zack befriends, and they have a widower father named Wayne (Kevin Pollak), who seems quite nice, but I would say kind of clueless. (Also, his nickname for Laney is "Pumpkin Nose", hence the file name I gave my review.) I have mixed feelings about the attempt to portray Laney as needing to "come out of her shell", or whatever, as she's supposedly been pushing people away probably ever since her mother died. I mean, I guess it's kind of good that the writer gave her a reason to change beyond just, like, trying to make herself "good enough" for Zack, or whatever. It's not like she ever changed that much, even when she eventually did become popular. In fact I think her popularity had more to do with her being nothing like Taylor. But at the same time, I don't think she was ever that antisocial, either. I mean, she has a good relationship with her brother and father, plus a best friend named Jesse (Elden Hensen, whom I know from Daredevil, and I thought it was kind of fun to see him in a younger role). Plus she was already involved with a group of performance artists. Maybe becoming more open was good for her, but she was never quite as closed off as we're meant to think she was. (Then again, there were a couple of art students who tried to convince her to kill herself at one point, and I honestly couldn't tell if that was just a horrible, mean-spirited joke or if they were actually serious. Either way, becoming popular with lots of different cliques was definitely an improvement over that.) But I liked Laney's personality just fine before she became popular, and I'm glad she never really changed more than her look, and tried to become a little more outgoing.

Eventually, Dean decides he wants to hook up with Laney, so he sabotages her relationship with Zack by telling her about the bet. And as is always the case in stories like this, we're meant to feel bad for Zack, I think, because he had developed real feelings for her. Well, I didn't feel particularly bad, because he did make the bet, which is not something a good guy would do, and if he really cared about her he should have told her about the bet himself, and apologized. I do think the story is salvaged somewhat by trying to show Laney having a good influence on him in some ways, so that he perhaps genuinely improved as a person because of getting to know her. And of course his issues with his father made him a sympathetic character in ways that weren't just about Laney. And he's definitely not as bad as Dean. (Which is one of the ways Laney's dad is clueless; he really seemed to have no idea which guy she should be with.) Meanwhile, Taylor also wanted to get back together with Zack, but there's no way that was going to happen. Though the question remains: who will become prom king and queen? And I'm not going to answer that question for you. But will Zack and Laney end up together, at least? I won't tell you that, either, but you can probably guess.

So, I don't know what else to say about the plot. I feel like I've said way too much already, and probably overthought some things. I suppose I should mention that the movie is more or less a reworking of the play "Pygmalion", which was previously reworked as the movie "My Fair Lady". And I think that story has always been problematic, not that I'm particularly familiar with either the play or the earlier movie. (I should probably at least watch "My Fair Lady" someday.) But this is basically a fun movie, and Laney is a good character. (She truly is "all that", and I daresay a bag of chips, as well.) Also, the movie has some good music, perhaps most notably the 1998 song "Kiss Me" by Sixpence None the Richer, which I've loved ever since I first heard it. And the DVD of this movie includes a music video for the song (one of a few videos that have been produced for it, this one featuring Freddie Prinze Jr. and Rachael Leigh Cook). There's also a rap by some students at the main characters' school, I guess, which is about the race for prom queen and drops the movie's title. I kinda liked that. And the prom itself includes "The Rockafeller Skank" by Fatboy Slim, during which a bunch of students show off some impressive dance moves that I don't believe would ever happen at a real prom. That was cool. And... yeah, I don't know what else to tell you.

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