Navigation Bar - Text Links at Bottom of Page


by: James Berardinelli

Like some kind of perverse cinematic plague, the teen comedies keep coming, each looking like a more washed-out xerox of the last one. After a while, they become all jumbled together: She's All That, 10 Things I Hate About You, Drive Me Crazy... It's hard to recall any distinguishing factors minutes after the film has ended, let alone months later. The only time a teen movie stands out is when it elects to do something bold (usually earning it the teen-unfriendly R-rating... but there's always video for those few members of the under-17 crowd who can't get past the inattentive ushers). Boldness is definitely not one of the defining characteristics of David Raynr's Whatever It Takes, a filim that, if it fails to merge with the pack, will only do so because it's a cut below everything else.

The latest trend in teen films has been to crib from classic sources (Shakespeare being a common victim). Whatever It Takes is the latest film to go this route, ostensibly being "inspired" by Edmond de Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac (although this use of the material makes Steve Martin's Roxanne seem like an exacting interpretation). The film's bastardization of its supposed source aside, Whatever It Takes simply isn't any fun due in large part to the fact that these plastic, generic teenagers bear no resemblance to the guys and gals who wander the average high school corridors. There are far too many times when this movie descends from the level where it's merely dumb to where it's downright insulting to anyone with functioning brain cells.

Whatever It Takes transpires against the usual backdrop of the cool kids (a.k.a. jerks) against the nerds (a.k.a. nice kids). Needless to say, anyone shown to be a member of the former camp is depicted as being vapid, graceless, and generally without any redeeming values, while those in the latter group are kind, intelligent, and well-adjusted. The film's target audience is teenagers, who, to one degree or another, will relate to the concept of high school cliques. The ironic thing is that everyone, regardless of whether they're part of the "in" crowd or not, will identify with the film's geeks. That's because real nerds are quite a bit different from the sanitized versions presented in films not directed by Todd Solondz (Welcome to the Dollhouse). Who wouldn't want to be Ryan or Maggie (the nerds)? Assuming you ignore their stereotyped sidekicks, they have everything going for them, including looks. So what if once in a while Ryan gets the urge to play his accordion in his underwear while "Play That Funky Music, White Boy" blares on the radio? Or if Maggie has to act flabbergasted when someone remarks that she's beautiful? It's better than being clods like Ashley and Chris (the cool kids).

Ryan (Shane West, who does not have a big nose) has the hots for the hitherto-unattainable Ashley (Jodi Lyn O'Keefe, who played an identical role in She's All That). She's his dream girl. Along comes Chris (James Franco), one of Gilmore High School's top football stars and Ashley's cousin. Chris wants to go out with Ryan's best friend and next-door neighbor, Maggie (Marla Sokoloff, from TV's "The Practice"). So they strike up a bargain. Ryan will teach Chris everything he needs to know to woo Maggie, while Chris will do the same for Ryan regarding Ashley. That means that Chris will have to act smart and well-mannered, while Ryan will have to turn into a jerk (once he does this, he becomes a member of the school's top clique, á là Patrick Dempsey's character in the '80s film, Can't Buy Me Love). Ultimately, as everyone in the audience knows, Ryan discovers that Ashley is too shallow for him and his true love is Maggie. If he'd had the good sense to recognize this from the start, things would have ended mercifully sooner. Instead, we have to suffer through 90 minutes of familiar gyrations, expected betra


Home | Theaters | Video | TV

Your Comments and Suggestions are Always Welcome.

2018 Cinema Review,  All Rights Reserved.


Find:  HELP!