Shakespeare, the dude who wrote “10 Things I Hate about You,” has, like, done it again. Only not as well. “She’s the Man” (Paramount Home Video, $29) is another of the Bard’s romantic comedies, updated and set in an American high school.
It’s hard to knock a plot that’s endured for 400 years, but it’s easy to ruin it with the wrong actors. Sometimes casting directors do a lame job, like when they find unrelated actors to play identical twins.
Amanda Bynes stars as Viola Hastings. Her brother Sebastian, whom she can impersonate because people confuse them with each other anyway, is played by James Kirk, who is several inches taller and whose head looks vaguely like hers on steroids.
Sebastian transfers to Illyria Prep while Viola remains at Cornwall High. Cornwall cuts the girls’ soccer team, and the coach won’t let Viola play for the boys’ team, whose first game is against Illyria in two weeks.
Wouldn’t you know Sebastian goes to London for two weeks. He asks Viola to cover for him, not suspecting she’s going to become him so she can play soccer for Illyria to prove her point. Never having been a boy before, Viola goes for lessons in masculinity to Paul, her hairdresser. It’s never established that Paul is gay, but he spends most of his time with two beautiful girls he never touches.
Viola-as-Sebastian meets her er, his roommate, Duke Orsino. Another word about casting. Duke, who’s supposed to be this gorgeous hunk who gives Viola a hard-on even though she doesn’t have a penis, is played by Channing Tatum. Okay, he’s got a nice body, but he looks like a less-handsome version of Brad Pitt, only without the charm. And almost as old. The guys at Illyria are the oldest high schoolers since “Grease.”
Duke is hot for Olivia (Laura Ramsey, the most promising cast member), who falls for Sebastian, even before she finds out how sensitive “he” is. Bynes, with her small stature and high voice, might be able to pass for a boy of 13, 14 max. But these Illyrians look old enough to be her er, his father.
The movie indulges in a lot of gender stereotypes, considering that its purpose is to dispel gender stereotypes. Despite a positive outcome, it’s less successful at proving girls can play soccer than the German film “Guys and Balls” is at showing gays can play soccer.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, July 28, 2006.