Last week, I reviewed the surprisingly entertaining high school-based Easy A, a comedy about how slippery a girl's reputation can be and the damage to it that can be wrought. It was a fun, frisky and smartly done film set amongst the teen set. This week it's You Again, and watching it makes me dream of those halcyon days of say, oh, a week ago when I got to watch the teens in Easy A. Those were surely the days.
You Again focuses its unoriginal, fluffy vision on the psychological ordeal that high school can unleash onto a poor misfit. It can leave invisible scars, buried trauma and bitter resentment that lasts forever, no matter how successful the person becomes. That's the loosely set-up moral to the story of You Again. Unfortunately, the end result is a film that is neither romantic nor funny nor anything else that makes it worth watching. Avoid this one.
We first meet Marni (Kristen Bell) in 2002 as she's suffering through her senior year of high school. The Marni we see as an 18 year old has braces, huge glasses and acne. She's hazed, ridiculed and mocked mercilessly by the pretty girls and boys who walk the halls. High school isn't her best moment in life, but rest assured, she'll get her act together. Flash forward eight years to the present, Marni's transformed into an attractive career woman, surprised by her boss with a big promotion to New York.
Heading home to attend her brother's wedding she gets a bombshell dropped on her: future sister-in-law is her number one tormenter and personal nightmare, Joanna. Marni steels herself for an apology that will surely come when the pair re-meet face to face, but when that time arrives, Joanna claims she doesn't even remember Marni. Worse, Joanna seems to be a saint, pledging to live for helping others, hanging out with Grandma Bunny (Betty White) and snowing the rest of the family with her goody two-shoes act. Marni vows to publicly shame Joanna while exposing her shortcomings to her smitten, clueless brother.
I didn't buy a second of this pile of treacly garbage also known as You Again, but fine, it's a romantic comedy, make me laugh just a little bit and all will be forgiven. I didn't. Not once. Not a single smile creased my face as I sat stone-faced for 100 minutes enduring pretty much everything on the screen. It's rare that a film comes out without one thing worth noticing while coming nowhere close to being entertaining on the tiniest level, but You Again is one of those moments. I should get hazard pay for experiencing movies like this.
The film, directed with brick-heavy hands by Andy Fickman, is a phony, soulless piece of formula that is so tired and milquetoast, it's hard to lay the blame solely on Fickman. Let's spread the culpability around, shall we? The script, by first time screenwriter Moe Jelline, is an utter disaster.
It's labored, full of cardboard cutout characters and so dumbed down with a by-the-numbers overkill that I hope and pray I never see Jelline's name pop up in the credits again.
How about the acting of Jelline's words by such people as Bell, Jamie Lee Curtis and Sigourney Weaver? Terrible. These aren't untalented people (although Bell seems partial to making bad movies such as this or When In Rome) but all of them let loose performances that have so much mugging and overacting it resembled pantomime from the long-gone silent era of cinema. What in the world was Fickman thinking by allowing this? Surely he didn't encourage these performances, did he? But, it is Andy Fickman, the man who helmed such comic gold as The Game Plan. Taste doesn't appear to be his strong suit so maybe he was telling the actresses to "go bigger!" in practically every scene.
How many more times are we going to get the worn-out premise of "ugly-duckling" transformed as an adult and getting to come face to face for revenge with their teenage albatross? The infuriating thing is they are always some gorgeous actress who has a bad haircut and a pair of big glasses. Cut to a few years later and they've discovered the magical elixirs of contacts, clear skin and good jobs while always deciding that the people who were awful to them in high school really weren't that bad. Ugh. You Again fits firmly in this unimaginative genre.
It would be a waste of time and energy to try to find redeeming qualities in You Again. There aren't any. It's a bland, predictable romantic comedy without romance or humor that tries to score points on the lowest common denominator. Then it aims lower. After watching, thinking about and writing my review for You Again, I might have to speak to my editor regarding that whole notion of hazard pay I mentioned earlier.
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