Seeing how today is Valentine’s Day and love is all around, I thought I should write about one of the many horrible romantic comedies I’ve paid to see over the years. As luck will have it, the late 1990s to early 2000s saw a ton of teen romantic comedies hit theaters.
I guess we saw a lot of teen comedies around this time because they were cheap to make and the studio could turn a quick profit. However, the quality of these teen romantic comedies varied from good, to “oh my god, why was this made?” One of the movies in the latter group is 1999s “She’s All That.”
I saw “She’s All That” opening weekend at the General Cinema in Braintree MA. The movie was my then girlfriend’s choice, and it was one of the last movies we saw before breaking up a few weeks later. To be fair though, I don’t think her making me see “She’s All That” had anything to do with the breakup.
Anywho, in case you blocked out the movie from your memory (it has been 20 years after all), “She’s All That” was directed by Robert Iscove and starred Freddie Prinze Jr., Rachael Leigh Cook, Paul Walker, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, Anna Paquin, Kevin Pollak, and Matthew Lillard.
Freddie Prinze Jr. played Zack, a smart kid who has the third-best grade point average in his class and is also the captain of the soccer team. Probably because making a football player would not have been realized. Nothing against Freddie Prinze Jr. but the doesn’t look like he could take a football hit.
Regardless, Zack is a lucky guy. Not only does he run the school, but he is also dating the most beautiful girl in class, Taylor (Jodi Lyn O’Keefe). But early in the film, Taylor breaks up with him after going to Daytona Beach and meeting Brock Hudson (Matthew Lillard), star of “The Real World.”
Thanks to her new boyfriend’s fame, Taylor is sure she’ll be crowned prom queen. That’s when (for reasons I still don’t understand), Zack’s buddies bet him he can’t take another girl and turn her into a prom queen. He accepts the bet and chooses Laney (Rachael Leigh Cook), a quiet nerdy girl who paints in her basement.
Had I known what “She’s All That” was about beforehand, I might have fought to see something else. But I didn’t, so there I sat, one of only a handful of guys in the theater. As the movie unfolded before me, I thought to myself “This plot is very familiar.” Then it hit me: “She’s All That” is basically “My Fair Lady,” but without a talented cast and award-winning score.
“She’s All That” uses the classic formula of turning the ugly duckling into a swan. The problem is that acting-wise, Rachael Leigh Cook is no Audrey Hepburn. I could believe Hepburn was this poor, uneducated girl because her performance was so captivating. I couldn’t buy into Rachael Leigh Cook the same way because I’d seen her on TV before and she is quite beautiful, to begin with. Plus her character here isn’t as endearing as Audrey Hepburn’s was.
Freddie Prinze Jr. as Zack is certainly no Rex Harrison. I’m not saying Prinze Jr. is awful, but in “She’s All That” he seems to have only one facial expression. Even in the scenes where he was supposed to be vulnerable, he just couldn’t pull it off. Prinze lacked charisma in the role, but maybe that’s the script’s fault. Come to think of it, out of all his friends, the only one who has any charisma is Paul Walker as Dean Sampson.
To be fair though, not everything in “She’s All That” was bad. For once, the senior prom wasn’t the central theme of the movie, but simply a subplot. Cast-wise, I really liked Anna Paquin as Zack’s sister, but she wasn’t in the movie nearly enough. Paquin was already an Oscar winner, so I’m not sure why you wouldn’t give her a larger role. I also liked Kevin Pollak as Rachael Leigh Cook’s pool cleaning dad.
One of the only times “She’s All That” made me laugh, was when Prinze Jr. brings a soccer team to clean Rachael Leigh Cook’s house so she doesn’t have to. During all of this, Kevin Pollack is into an episode of “Jeopardy” that he doesn’t even notice all the strange people in his house. That is until one of the soccer players shouts out the right answer to one of the “Jeopardy” questions.
But I can’t help but feeling that “She’s All That” should have been a better movie. There are some good ideas here, and the cast would have been great with the right material. In the end, though, I get the feeling someone at the studio or one of the filmmaker decided to play it safe when it came to the finished product.
Meanwhile, my girlfriend LOVED “She’s All That” and thought Freddie Prinze Jr. was the best thing ever. The man could do no wrong in her book, she went as far as to say his performance touched her soul. Part of me wanted to ask her if we saw the same movie, but when she told me Prinze Jr. was on her list to cheat with. I replied back “Can Rachael Leigh Cook be on mine?” Let’s just say that line didn’t go over very well.