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In pop culture, YADA-YADA usually means "blah, blah, blah" or "more of the same." For this blog, YADA-YADA is an acronym meaning "Young Adult Discussions About Young Adult-Designed Art." Check out my summaries and reviews of teen media. Chime in and let me know what you think!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Blog No. 2--She's the Man (DVD)



Andy Fickman
Ewan Leslie and Karen McCullah Lutz
Dreamworks SKG

Bibliographic Information:
Starring: Amanda Bynes, Channing Tatum
Released June, 2006
Grade Range: 8 and up, Age Range: 13 and up
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 105 minutes

Teen Choice Awards (winner) for Breakout Male (Channing Tatum) 2006.

Reader’s Annotation:
It’s very hard to be someone you are not—especially if you are a teenage girl, trying to pass yourself off as a teenage boy!

Plot Summary:
In this modern day high school remake of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Viola (Amanda Bynes) is upset that her high school, Cornwall, is disbanding the girls’ soccer team—a team that the very skilled and athletic Viola loves—due to a lack of players (and interest) among the school’s female population in general. Her request to tryout for the boys’ team, along with her six other teammates, is laughingly refused by Cornwall’s head coach. Her boyfriend, a player on the boys’ team, does nothing to show his support of Viola, and also laughs at the notion of girls being able to play (soccer) with boys on the same field. Angered, Viola decides to break off their relationship. Meanwhile, Viola’s twin brother, Sebastian (James Kirk), is all set to attend Illyria—a private boarding school, and Cornwall’s major soccer rival. However, Sebastian’s interest in the sport and the rivalry does not nearly compare to his interest in his guitar—and his girlfriend—who convinces him to take an opportunity to go to London and get his rock band noticed. Sebastian doesn’t need much convincing, and takes off. His absence gives Viola a visionary idea: she decides to masquerade as her brother Sebastian, take his place at Illyria and on the soccer team, and play against her rotten ex-boyfriend! Viola’s hopes that she can lead Sebastian’s team to victory, unveil herself as a girl, and get back at her boyfriend and the coach by proving that female athletes are just as good as their male counterparts. With the help of her friend, Paul, a hair stylist, Viola assumes Sebastian’s identity and mannerisms. On the Illyria field, Viola is good, but needs some extra coaching. She makes an agreement with teammate (and Sebastian’s roommate) Duke Orsino, that if he helps her improve her game, she will help convince Olivia—the most popular girl at Illyria, to fall for Duke. However, she doesn’t count on falling for Duke herself—or that Olivia is falling for her, as Sebastian. Viola’s trials and tribulations as her brother continue, and get even more harried as she gets involved in a Debutante Ball—and has to pose between Viola and Sebastian in very quick time!

Critical Evaluation:
Although most film critics in 2006 panned the general audience theatrical release of “She’s the Man” because of the writers’ dependence on contrivances to further the plot, I found that, as a DVD release intended for teen audiences, the film worked on a pure entertainment level. I recently watched this film with my fifteen-year-old daughter, and found the movie to be thoroughly enjoyable. What is more important is that my daughter found it enjoyable—even after watching it for the fifth time! This movie bears very little resemblance to the Shakespearean comedy, with the exception of some of the names. Of course, Viola, Sebastian and Olivia are all a part of Shakespeare’s play. The film’s “Duke Orsino” was, for Shakespeare, Orsino, Duke of Illyria. But it doesn’t matter. Amanda Bynes was thoroughly delightful as Viola turned Sebastian, and while no one ever doubted that she was a girl, it was fun to watch the other actors try to suspend their disbelief, and buy Amanda Bynes as a boy. Bynes worked hard at the walk and talk of manhood, but the real joy in her performance was her ability to laugh at her own take on Sebastian. As a romp through the trials and tribulations of teens, it worked, and Bynes’s characters—as both Viola and Sebastian—along with the actors who supported her—provided enough depth for the audience to feel what it must be like to walk in the other’s shoes.

Although it is certainly not an Oscar-winning performance by any stretch of the imagination, Bynes made her Viola and her Sebastian believable enough to submit to an almost two-hour ride. As light comedies for teens go, it is worth seeing.

Reading level/Interest Age:
Pre-teen (age 10 and up) as well as teen girls (13 and up) will find this film enjoyable, and generally appropriate. Some boys (13 and up) may enjoy it, but I think their interest would be limited. Younger boys would find this uninteresting. However, the film is rated PG-13 for some very mild sexual innuendo, and a kissing scene in the first several minutes of the film, so parents should be warned.

Information about the Author:
Generally (and sometimes sadly) speaking, it is the director that is considered the “Author” of a film. This comes from the days of the French Nouvelle Vague in the 1960s, after the studio system ended, when directors were first considered auteurs, the person whose vision the film depicted.

In the case of She’s the Man, the director is Andy Fickman, best known for the film Anaconda, and race to Witch Mountain. Fickman began his career as a stage director, and won several Ovation awards for his stage work. Fickman previously headed up Bette Midler’s and Bonnie Bruckheimer’s “All Girl Productions.” He also directed the independent teen comedy “Who’s Your Daddy”

Curriculum Ties:

English. It could be fun for a high school class to compare and contrast this film with the Shakespearean play. However, Twelfth Night is often used at the 8th or 9th grade level; some middle schools do not permit PG-13 films to be shown at school. Generally in 9th grade it would not be a problem.

Booktalking Ideas:
I generally would not “booktalk” a DVD, but my daughter watches this at least five times a year!

Challenge Issues:
None. If shown in school for an under-13 audience, permission might be needed first.

Why I Included This DVD:
There are times when all teens need to suspend disbelief and have a fun romp through a movie, without having to think too much. This film is perfect for those times. The fact that this was loosely based on Twelfth Night makes this film a fun comparison to the Shakespearean literature.

Cover image courtesy of http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0454945/

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