A high school jock makes a bet that he can turn an unattractive girl into the school's prom queen.A high school jock makes a bet that he can turn an unattractive girl into the school's prom queen.A high school jock makes a bet that he can turn an unattractive girl into the school's prom queen.
OK, maybe I'm being a little hyperbolic with calling this movie "innocent," but I'm making these judgments because this is a movie that I've always admired since it first came out in 1999 - I was 14 and in middle school that year, so I was definitely within its target audience - and I eagerly rented it on VHS from Blockbuster Video after being released on home video. Regrettably, I never really watched it again after that for some reason; I really wish I could come up with a reasonable explanation, but I honestly have none. (As an aside, a few months ago I purchased the movie on Blu-ray DVD and I finally had the opportunity to watch the movie in its entirety for the first time in 12 years.)
I personally feel that, unlike many of the teen comedies released on the tail end of the oh-so-cynical seen-it-all '90s, "She's All That" was one of the far better movies from that time. It was incredibly well-acted (by its wholesome, good-looking leads, played by Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Rachael Leigh Cook), well-written (by R. Lee Fleming, Jr), and directed (by Robert Iscove). I felt that the budding romantic chemistry between the two leads was real and believable. Additionally, the characters, especially Cook's character, Plain Jane art student Laney Boggs, seemed real, three-dimensional, and sympathetic.
I single out Rachael Leigh Cook because this was really her movie all the way. In other words, she simply wasn't running her character through the motions of Fleming's script, and she made Laney Boggs all her own - a living, breathing human being and not a brown-eyed, brunette-haired bombshell. She doesn't go from zero to 10 in the time it takes for you to zip up your jacket, no (even though in the real world, it would be utterly ridiculous for her to be considered, even in her "ugly duckling" stage, anything less than "very, very pretty"; all she needs to do is lose the glasses, do her hair, and update her wardrobe and she's done - instant prom queen status). Her transformation into a beauty queen is something that is seen as a gradual process and is full of real effort on her part. In other words, She really is All That.
At the beginning of the film, all-American jock - star soccer player - and class president and essentially nice good-guy Zack Siler (Prinze, Jr.) is publicly dumped by his shallow, self-absorbed girlfriend Taylor Vaughan (Jodi Lyn O'Keefe) for an annoying reality TV star from "The Real World" named Brock Hudson (Matthew Lillard, of "Scream"). Zack bets with his best friend Dean (Paul Walker) that he can turn any girl in the school into a prom queen in six weeks. Dean chooses Laney Boggs. Predictably, Zack starts to fall for Laney - especially after his younger sister Mackenzie (Anna Paquin) gives her an extreme makeover - and soon finds himself questioning his bet with Dean.
As I stated earlier, there isn't a whole lot to the plot that hasn't been seen before in earlier, better teen pictures (like, say, for instance, 1987's "Can't Buy Me Love," which this film could be considered in some ways a modern update of). But what saves it are its performances from two real, likable characters who are given a chance on-screen to really learn from each other, and learn ABOUT each other and make some unique discoveries about themselves in the process. It's just a quality that I wish more teen films shared these days.
"She's All That" - It really is All That, and then some more.
- Jul 11, 2012