What You Need To Know:
Light moral worldview of accepting others & friendship; 4 obscenities, 14 profanities, 20 vulgarities, & some sexual humor; mild violence including shoving; upper male nudity (once in sexual context); foreplay in underwear & frequent sexual innuendo; smoking; underage drinking & alcohol abuse; and, miscellaneous immorality including betting, insensitive teasing, mild disrespect toward parents (one scene), & lying.
SHE’S ALL THAT is sort of a poor man’s John Hughes movie. During the 1980s, Mr. Hughes made several “teen” movies that appealed to adults as well as their adolescent target audience. These movies featured sympathetic main characters (often played by Molly Ringwald) mired in typical teenage traumas and surrounded by endearingly quirky peers. The writing was witty and fast-paced.
SHE’S ALL THAT is similar in that its main characters are likable, normal teenagers facing problems that many people all face at that age, while several eccentric characters add humor and originality. Regrettably, however, the movie’s screenplay pales in comparison to Hughes’ funny scripts. The plot is formulaic and predictable, and no classic one-liners will emerge from this film, as they did from Hughes’ movies.
The basic premise of SHE’S ALL THAT is a rehash of MY FAIR LADY (or 1991’s DOGFIGHT, a far more obscure, far better movie starring River Phoenix). The female lead in SHE’S ALL THAT, Laney Boggs (Rachel Leigh Cook), is a teenage nerd who spends most of her time in her basement painting. The Big Man on Campus at her L.A. high school, Zack Siler (Freddie Prinze, Jr.), bets his pals that he can ask any girl out and transform her into the prom queen within five weeks. His friends choose Laney as the lucky make-over candidate. Of course, beneath her glasses and paint splotches, ugly-duckling Laney turns out to be a beautiful swan. The rest of the movie chronicles Laney and Zack’s blossoming friendship, as well as their confrontations with disapproving peers, with predictable results.
The prosaic plot is saved from utter banality by some amusing characters, such as Zack’s ex-girlfriend, Taylor Vaughan (Jodi Lyn O’Keefe), a typical Valley Girl who vies with Laney for the prom queen crown. The funniest of these personalities is “Brock Hudson,” a self-absorbed caricature of “Puck,” the famously obnoxious star of MTV’s “The Real World.” Several other amiable, less quirky characters round out the cast, like Anna Paquin as MacKenzie Siler, Zack’s sister, and Elden Hensen as Jesse Jackson, Laney’s best friend. Most of these young actors are not yet well-known, but they do a fine job of fleshing out roles that could easily have become cardboard stereotypes. Rachel Leigh Cook particularly succeeds in portraying an awkward teenage girl stepping into the unknown world of popularity. Instead of completely changing Laney’s character from a nerd to a prom queen, Cook realistically retains Laney’s social awkwardness even after she has been transformed physically.
Since SHE’S ALL THAT is largely a quintessential Hollywood “teen” movie, it regrettably contains plenty of cursing, drinking and a few gross-out jokes. Only the “bad” characters drink to excess, but all the underage characters have at least one drink. The movie does promote kindness to others, however, especially to persecuted misfits. The principal characters are nice, wholesome kids who show compassion for their peers and a burgeoning integrity (except for their occasional alcohol use and foul language).
In essence, SHE’S ALL THAT is harmless mind candy for adults, or for teenagers who have firmly resolved to resist the pressure to drink. Its feel-good conclusion proves a welcome respite for those of us who have seen a few too many “serious” films lately, or for anyone who simply wants to be entertained. However, in the end, SHE’S ALL THAT is all carcinogenic calories full of cursing, drinking and a few gross-out jokes.