High school soccer movie She’s the Man’s hardly a match for Twelfth Night.
Twelfth Night, or What You Will—Shakespeare’s hilarious tale of mistaken identity and unrequited love—begins with a shipwreck on the shores of Illyria.
Or, in the case of the 2006 film She’s the Man, on the soccer pitch at Illyria boarding school. No one is presumed dead in this case; Sebastian Hastings (James Kirk (not the captain of NCC-1701-A)) has gone to London to play with his band without his parents’ knowledge.
After the girls soccer team at her school gets cut, his twin sister, Viola (Amanda Bynes), takes this as an opportunity to play soccer on her level—with the boys. And a wig. And a rather unconvincing voice timbre.
Viola hatches the switcharoo idea after her mother, who is dying for a debutante daughter, says, “Sometimes I think you might as well be your brother.” And one gratuitous salon montage underscored with an uppity chick rock cover of “You’re Gonna Make it After All” and complete with stick-on Yosemite Sam moustaches later, Viola sets her plan in action.
She tells each of her conveniently divorced parents she’s at the other’s house, and sets off for Sebastian’s new school. (Of course, this only works because no one at Illyria has met Sebastian yet.)
When Viola starts posing as Sebastian, she suddenly dons an awkward, half-southern accent and saying things like “Word, g-money.” Problems arise when her dreamy roommate, Duke Orsino (Channing Tatum) spots her tampons. To get out of the awkward situation, Viola sticks a tampon up her nose, claiming she uses them for nosebleeds.
Much like the play, Viola and Duke work out an arrangement. Viola will help Duke woo the gorgeous blonde Olivia (Laura Ramsay), and Duke helps Viola improve her soccer skills so she can make first string and kick her ex-boyfriend’s butt in the season opener. Too bad Viola is falling for Duke the whole time, and he thinks she’s her brother. Ruh-roh! Drama, drama, drama, happy ending ensues. I won’t spoil it for you.
There are a number of components in the film that could leave you scratching your head. Tatum’s Duke never seems suspicious that he’s living with a co-ed. I’m willing to suspend disbelief a little bit, but she’s not remotely convincing. The wig isn’t bad, sure, but how do the heart-to-hearts and awkward moments in the locker room not tip Duke off? And how does Olivia not realize she’s flirting with a girl?
As is the case with the original play, there’s no use trying to make sense of how a set of fraternal twins (of opposite genders) would be confused for one another. Or how when Sebastian suddenly returns from London/his watery grave, Olivia has no idea she wasn’t crushing on him all along. And so on.
This is all well and good. The play is not meant to be deep. But though the Bard’s original version is a light romp, it is filled with genuine laughs, pranks and chaos. She’s the Man, on the other hand, relies on kissing booths, debutante balls and chemistry lab partner dynamics. (Yes, Olivia falls for Viola/Sebastian in chemistry. What are the odds of that?!)
In addition to a fair dose of cheesiness:
a number of my favorite characters aren’t done their full justice—namely the staff in Olivia’s court like Feste, Maria, and the perpetually drunk Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek. True, in She’s the Man Duke has two teammates named Toby and Andrew, but they are in high school and, sadly, never drunk. (Just kidding! Stay in school, kids.)
We do get a solid dose of Malvolio in Olivia’s obsessive sidekick Malcolm Festes, but we never get to see him in yellow, cross-gartered stockings, which is disappointing. He even has a pet tarantula named Malvolio, which he pretends to lose in an attempt to prevent Viola/Sebastian from hooking up with Olivia.
The most famous verses work their way into the film, as expected, but it’s actually the only one that does. “Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them” is used as a cliché line from Duke after Viola’s true identity is revealed in the middle of their season opening soccer game. A bit out of context, if you ask me, considering that we see that line in Malvolio’s big speech when he reads the letter Maria writes to fool him into thinking Olivia holds a torch for him.
You might be asking yourself, why should I support a celebrity who’s spinning off the rails? But people, this is Amanda Bynes pre-bizarre Twitter habits. Whatever she claims has not snapped inside her head definitely hadn’t snapped yet, so this movie’s pretty easy watching.
She was cute once! I promise. Any All That fans out there?
If Bynes’ presence puts you off, perhaps your attention might be redeemed by Channing Tatum’s irresistible charm. Besides Tatum, the only other beacon in the movie is David Cross (Oops. I mean David Cross) as Illyria’s overly friendly headmaster, Horatio Gold. But even an Arrested Development alum can’t fully rescue this awkward, unconvincing adaptation.
Plus, let’s face it, no high school Shakespeare film will ever touch what 10 Things I Hate About You did for The Taming of the Shrew. (Heath Ledger’s adorable serenade of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” is forever burned on my brain.)
She’s the Man is pretty bland. I’d recommend it for sick days, if it comes on TBS or Bravo or something. Don’t go out of your way.