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She's the Man

Bynes Shines, But This One's a Real Drag

Modeled loosely on Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" and inspired, no doubt, by gender-bending teen comedies like 1985's Just One of the Guys, She's the Man is a harmless, mindless diversion. If it plays out like so many other teen romps and suspense-free sports movies, that's because it has been pieced together using durable building blocks straight off the Hollywood assembly line. There's a touch of wit here, an invigorating performance there, but discriminating viewers be warned: There's nothing new to see here, except the sight of Amanda Bynes in freakishly unconvincing drag.

To her credit, Bynes manages to breathe life into a tired farce with her boundless energy and easy charm. She plays Viola Hastings, a feisty young woman dismayed by her high school's decision to drop the girls' soccer program. So what does she do? Why, she pastes on a pair of fake sideburns and a shaggy wig and passes herself as a boy -- in this case, her twin brother, Sebastian (James Kirk) -- so she can resume her athletic career without missing a beat. And does she pull it off? Not even remotely, but this is a movie, after all, and everyone buys into the obvious ruse until Viola's inevitable outing.

It's not just her appearance that's off. Viola is old enough to have spent plenty of time in the company of guys her age, but if her shrill, inexplicably awkward brand of boy-babble is any indication, she's never listened to them speak. (She could also stand to learn a thing or two about basic anatomy. After a sufficiently harsh attack on her groin, Viola doesn't think to feign discomfort, arousing the suspicion of at least one teammate. The implication here is that Viola is either too wholesome to understand the intricacies of male genitalia or she's a refugee from the planet Zorkon.)

Following her transformation, the movie rapidly descends into clich, moving from the Big Game to Viola's problematic attempts at romance. Bynes is relentlessly plucky throughout, while David Cross and Vinnie Jones wring much-needed laughs from their minor roles. But She's the Man remains slight and instantly forgettable, a cheerful retread that plays it a little too safe.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars