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With: Shane West, Marla Sokoloff, Jodi Lyn O'Keefe, James Franco, Julia Sweeney, Colin Hanks, Kip Pardue, Scott Vickaryous, Richard Schiff, David Koechner, Nick Cannon
Written by: Mark Schwahn
Directed by: David Raynr
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements, sexual material and language
Running Time: 94
Date: 31/03/2000

Whatever It Takes (2000)

1 Star (out of 4)

Whatever, Indeed

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Adapting Cyrano de Bergerac into a teen high school comedy must have been a tempting idea, since Amy Heckerling's Clueless (1995) adapted Jane Austen's Emma so brilliantly, and the cheap knockoff 10 Things I Hate About You updated Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. So I suppose I had some small hope that the original's excellence would rub off on the new version.


Whatever It Takes is one of the worst and most inept teen movies I've seen since last year's Jawbreaker. Although it's based on Cyrano, the movie takes that plot one step further. A geek and a jock make a deal that they'll help each other get the girl they want. The jock wants the geek's best friend, a girl geek. The geek wants the jock's cousin, a fabulously snooty debutante. So they feed each other lines designed to win over the girls' hearts. Is there any question what's going to happen?

Part of the problem is that the four actors are all good-looking and could be pin-ups for "Tiger Beat". We're supposed to think that there's NO WAY that they could ever cross class lines, but we know that off camera that's probably not the case.

For the record, the geek girl is played by Marla Sokoloff, the geek boy by Shane West, the jock boy by James Franco (also in last year's Never Been Kissed), and the evil popular girl by Jodi Lyn O'Keefe. I must admit, I have a soft spot for the lovely Ms. O'Keefe, who played an equally villainous teen in last year's She's All That, and who I interviewed at the time. (She's also a local star, appearing on television in "Nash Bridges.") So I didn't mind rooting for her in Whatever It Takes, especially since she seems to so relish playing the heavy.

The movie is rife with problems, though. There's a blatant ripoff of It's a Wonderful Life (1946), with the thinking that the 15-year-olds who are going to see this movie haven't yet seen that classic. (Couldn't they have ripped off something a little more obscure, like Jack Arnold's classic High School Confidential, from 1958?) There's also logic problems, logistical problems, and just plain creativity problems. Sokoloff and West live next door to each other and have roomy balconies facing each other's rooms so that they can share each other's private secrets, day or night. Don't tell me that geek boy never noticed that she's gorgeous! There's not a single surprise or funny moment in this movie (except for a couple of unintentional laughs).

For a really brilliant adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac, viewers are encouraged to check out Fred Schepisi and Steve Martin's brilliant Roxanne (1987), which goes so far as to re-create a swordfight with a tennis racket. Whatever It Takes is an utter and complete waste of time. I can only hope that it won't dissolve the brains of teenagers who see it and keep them from seeking much better movies.

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