Jodi Lyn O'Keefe, Kevin Pollak, Usher Raymond, Kimberly 'Lil' Kim' Jones, Elden Henson, Kieran Culkin, Anna Paquin, Gabrielle Union, Dulé Hill, Clea DuVall, Tamara Mello"/>
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With: Freddie Prinze Jr., Rachael Leigh Cook, Matthew Lillard, Paul Walker, Jodi Lyn O'Keefe, Kevin Pollak, Usher Raymond, Kimberly 'Lil' Kim' Jones, Elden Henson, Kieran Culkin, Anna Paquin, Gabrielle Union, Dulé Hill, Clea DuVall, Tamara Mello
Written by: R. Lee Fleming Jr.
Directed by: Robert Iscove
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, crude humor, brief strong language and teen drinking
Running Time: 95
Date: 01/29/1999

She's All That (1999)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

High School Why

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Outside of the horror genre, we haven't had a good high school movie since John Hughes stopped making John Hughes movies and started making endless sequels of Home Alone movies. She's All That, the new movie written by R. Lee Fleming Jr. and directed by Robert Iscove, isn't really that good, but it does leave a mark--it cements the elements that a movie needs to be a part of the high school genre.

The "high school" genre has evolved a lot over the years. Up until the 50's, high school movies mostly had adults playing high school kids. In the 50's, the "juvenile delinquent" genre was invented with movies like Rebel Without a Cause, High School Confidential!, and The Blackboard Jungle,; dramas about troubled kids. Then came the musicals, like West Side Story, Rock 'n' Roll High School, and Grease, again with actors who were too old to play high school kids. In the early 80's, high school kids were reduced to sex maniacs in movies like Private School, The Last American Virgin, and the Porky's trilogy. Cameron Crowe and Amy Heckerlingļæ½s breakthrough film, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, had realistic talk and confusion about sex, but it still had an outsider's view, and didn't quite hit the truth. But writer/director John Hughes finally hit the mark with Sixteen Candles (1984), The Breakfast Club (1985), and Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986), all of which were funny but earned their laughs through teens' genuine fears, curiosities, and anxieties.

The last ten years has seen a sporadic continuation of the Hughes-type movies, like Heathers (1989), and Clueless (1995). Now, like a textbook, She's All That captures the basic elements of the genre, and clearly labels it as a genre. We have the basic textbook plot, A cool high school senior (Paul Walker) makes a bet with the prom king (Freddie Prinze Jr.) that he can't turn the school geek (Rachael Leigh Cook) into a prom queen by the end of the year. We have the "makeover" scene where Anna Paquin puts makeup on Cook, and which invariably includes the line, "do you really need to wear those glasses?" (taken straight out of Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep and other movies). We have the bonehead dad (Kevin Pollack) who grows a brain just in time for the climactic heart-to-heart talk with his daughter. And best of all, we have the beautiful, wicked prom queen (Jodi Lyn O'Keefe) who gets her comeuppance in the end.

She's All That is not likely to make a mark or be remembered by anyone for very long, but it's harmless enough and useful for finding the finer points of this genre.

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