Film Review: She’s All That

I hold something of a sweet spot for She’s All That. A nostalgic affection of time past. A happy enjoyable memory, a reflection, which means that even though, underneath it all, it’s a very clichéd American teen comedy, that has borrowed it’s central core idea from Pygmalion – I like to image, as it’s set in a school, that the script writers, like a lot of children, forget to read the book and instead cribbed the plot from My Fair Lady instead – I don’t care, I just like it as a film!

While this is a basic teen comedy with all the stereotypes you’d expect to see, that doesn’t seem to really cause the film too many problems. Sure it’s never going to be a serious film, thought of as a genre defining game changer, but that doesn’t matter because the charm comes from the sense that there is a real warmth to She’s All That. It has a personality. It is friendly and comforting. And for a teen comedy, it’s layers, it’s ideas, when you look beyond the borrowed central plot are actually clever and well executed.

On it’s surface it may be about change, but underneath you have the voyage of self discovery. Who are we? Where are we going? How do you know the answers to the fundamental questions in life are correct? How do you even know the questions are right? Which they’ve married up to the fact that in trying to change Laney (Rachael Leigh Cook), Zack (Freddie Prinze Jr.) in fact, changes himself. All the time set against the simplistic backdrop, of Pygmalion. And the reason it all works to such effect is that they have kept it simple. They’ve got their ideas and they’re going to stick to them. This film never really breaks off into any tangents or delves deeply into the supporting characters.

This film is now bordering on the scarily old. It turns 15 this year and there was a real worry that it would now be looking it’s age, feeling dated, and tired from all that revision. But instead, it’s managed to tread water, to remain static and upright and feel constant and right. She’s All That has managed to not to age but rather feel like a snapshot of past times. A cinematic time capsule.

Paul Walker &  Freddie Prinze Jr. - She's All That

Something all the more impressive as it’s cast list: Matthew Lillard, Paul Walker, Anna Paquin, Elden Henson, Alexis Arquette and even Usher have all gone on to build names for themselves elsewhere. And the really impressive thing, is that apart from Walker, who looks totally out of place as a young high school jock used as the “bad” foil to Prinze Jr., and potentially Usher, none of the characters feel wrong, or over shadowed by performances they were yet to give!

From a cinematic production point of view She’s All That even scores well. The soundtrack is clever and fitting. Not only it’s selections of modern pop taken from the time in which it was set but also for its non obtrusive, almost complimentary use of music throughout the film. It’s relevant songs set softly into the background never distracting from the story on screen, whatever volume that are played at. And when they do bring music in front of the characters, the story, with the use of Kiss Me by Sixpence None The Richer and Fat Boy Slim’s – The Rockafeller Skank, it serves purely to entertain and enforce the images it’s overlayed.

Even the pacing is good but I think that is because this film has a true sense of planning and conviction to it. Some may see the rigidity that you can feel throughout the film to stick to what it on paper as a bad point, but even so, to me, this direct route from start to finish, feels more like a happy skip than any frustrated trudge, march or stomp.

As I said at the start I have a real soft spot for She’s All That. I don’t watch it often, but I can happily watch it and it never fails to entertain and charm me. I think in part that is because, when it was released in 1999 I was 16 years old. I was reaching that point in the educational ladder where I was starting to think about my future, about where things were going to go. Who was I? What would my life hold? Where are the answers waiting? And suddenly, along came an almost throw away teen comedy, which underneath everything, was asking the exact same questions. It instantly connected to me.

Not only that, but the music fitted us both, the creativity, the joviality, it was like randomly bumping into someone in the street, going for a coffee (although back then it would have been coca cola and muffin at BB’s) and becoming friends for life. A friendship, which 15 years on, was as strong last night as it’s ever been. I think in part that maybe, however, down as much to the fact that 15 years on, I’m still asking the same questions and still searching for the same answers I was when we first met. But I don’t care.

I am fully aware, that I am somewhat skewed my in views of She’s All That. I’m sure I’m in a minority with the affection I hold for the film; clouding no doubt, a lot of wooden acting, a beyond stereotyped American High School and countless other faults. And I’m sure, that a lot of people who found the answers they were originally looking for in life would look back on it now, no longer sharing it’s search and feel less of its charm and character, but honestly, I don’t care. We’re friends and while I still ask questions of my life we always will be.

8 out of 10 stars (8 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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