Wednesday, February 12, 2020

The Sibling Switch

She's the Man
Director: Andy Fickman
Cast: Amanda Bynes, Channing Tatum, Julie Hagerty, David Cross
Released: March 17, 2006

This is one of those movies where you have to wonder if every character is really that stupid and the answer, it seems, is yes, they really are all that stupid. So to set up the story, high schooler Viola (Amanda Bynes) is dismayed when she finds out her school is cutting the girls' soccer team because not enough signed up for it. After asking the boys' soccer coach if they can play on the boys' team and trying to get support from her boyfriend who is the team captain, they both pretty much laugh in her face. She (rightfully) breaks up with her boyfriend. Viola has a twin brother, Sebastian, who, we find out, got kicked out of their school for skipping, so he will be attending a boarding school, Illyria. He is a musician and is sneaking out to fly to London to play at some music festival and asks Viola to pretend to be their mom and call the school to tell them he's sick and will be out the first two weeks. After Sebastian's girlfriend, Monique, makes the comment that Viola and Sebastian look alike (they don't), Viola gets the brilliant idea to pretend to be her brother and attend his school as him. Then she will be able to play on the boys' soccer team and will prove that girls can play soccer with boys. Since she will be staying at the school, she tells her mom (played by Julie Hagerty) that she will be at her dad's house for the next two weeks. Very convenient plot device that her parents are divorced! 

We get a makeover scene of Viola asking her hair dresser friend to make her into her brother. She gets the same haircut cut as him (complete with sideburns) and that's pretty much where the similarities end. This all happens within the first twelve minutes of the movie.

Her first few days as Sebastian at her new school don't go so well. She's trying way too hard to fit in with her roommate, Duke (Channing Tatum) and his friends, who are also all on the soccer team. Because of her short stature (compared to a guy at least) they think he skipped a few grades. As a guy, she doesn't have a consistent talking voice. Sometimes she talks with a deep voice (as deep as she can make it), sometimes she seems to forget she's supposed to be a boy and talks with her normal voice, and sometimes she talks with this really weird accent like she's trying to be cool, like trying to fit in with one of the guys. When she tries out for the soccer team, she doesn't make first string.

I question some of the things she does. For instance, her first day of school, a box of tampons falls out of her bag and Duke and his two friends are staring at "him", obviously confused. Viola tells them "he" uses them to stick in "his", nose when "he" gets nose bleeds, claiming David Beckham does the same thing. She then proceeds to show them how it's done - WHY? Why do you need to show them how to stick a tampon up your nose? Seems very unnecessary. Also, if I were "him", I would have told them that my sister likes to play pranks on me and most likely put her box of tampons in my bag to embarrass me. This scene does get a payoff in a later scene when we see Duke has a tampon in his nose after he gets into a fight. Definitely not Channing Tatum's finest moment, but I guess we all gotta start out somewhere; this was one of his first movie roles, after all. Another thing I question is that Viola didn't really seem to think her whole plan through. She almost gets caught in the communal shower, but right before she undresses (she's just taken off the wrap around her chest) two guys come in. It appeared to be late, but not that late. I mean, what would have happened if those guys came in five minutes later? We then see her getting up at four in the morning to take her showers. Also, they never address this, but why aren't Viola's parents getting calls from HER school? Aren't they wondering why SHE isn't attending school?

Viola's guy friend has a great idea of how to make "Sebastian" cool with the guys and has this whole thing planned where Viola's two closest (and prettiest) friends will be at the pizza joint where all the high school kids like to hang. Viola as Sebastian will walk in and right in front of Duke and the other two guys (whose names I did not care to learn), the two girls will walk up to "Sebastian" one at a time and basically drape themselves over "him" and tell "him" how much they miss "him". Basically, they're trying to make Viola as a guy look like a lady's man to impress the guys. Seeing that Viola posing as a guy has a Boys Don't Cry vibe going on, I'm surprised they tried to make her a heterosexual male (and a bit of a player at that) because I wouldn't buy it for a second. After Viola as Sebastian impresses the guys, she has to quickly hide her face because Monique, Sebastian's girlfriend (or maybe it was his ex, I was always a little fuzzy on that until the end when we know for sure where their relationship lies) walks in and is trying to talk to "Sebastian". You think the guy's own girlfriend would know her boyfriend's own voice and realize that this person she thought was her boyfriend was half a foot shorter. Viola manages to get away, but it won't be the last time she has to escape from Monique.

There's a scene in this movie that's like the one in Mrs. Doubtfire where Robin Williams is at a restaurant where he has to be Mrs. Doubtfire with his family, then his real character with a client or something (I don't's been awhile since I've seen that movie!) In this case, Viola has to be herself and her brother at a carnival her mom is the head of. Viola shows up as Sebastian with Duke and the other two guys, then they split up and she changes back to her regular self where she makes an appearance in front of her mom who asks where her brother is. Viola tells her she's going to find him and we see her change into Sebastian - on a tilt-a-whirl ride of all things. She literally puts a wig on while she's on a ride that spins around and around. I think that's pretty much impossible. Once again she is spotted by Monique who thinks she's Sebastian and is trying to chase him. Viola manages to lose her by diving into the ball pit where she changes back to herself while her friends (Viola's friends, not the Illyria guys) stand guard. I don't think it was necessary for Viola to change back to herself since Monique had left, but I guess she had to make an appearance at the kissing booth (as herself) where she was scheduled to work it. Actually, you know what? It really doesn't make sense that Viola was ever Sebastian in this whole scenario! Yes, I know her mom said she expected to see both her children at the carnival but you know Viola can't fool her as Sebastian; I would hope the woman knows what her own children look like! And I know Viola shows up at the carnival with the Illyria guys as Sebastian, but "he" could have just told them "he" was coming later. Yeah, the more I think about it, the more stupid this whole scene is.

Oh, I guess this is a good time to tell you about another little subplot of the movie right here. Duke has a crush on a girl named Olivia but he's not good at talking to girls (despite the fact that he looks like Channing Tatum!) and asks Sebastian if he'll help him since Sebastian is lab partners with Olivia in their biology class. Olivia is working the kissing booth and right before Duke is ready to kiss her, Viola is her relief and takes over, much to Duke's dismay. He and Viola share a kiss and that's when Viola realizes she has feelings for Duke (though let's face it: she was attracted to him since the beginning). Sidenote: even though kissing booth make great plot devices for movies and I understand why they're used, they are super gross and surely they are not used in real life, right? RIGHT? Just the fact of having to kiss hundreds of strangers makes me shudder and gag; I don't care if the money is going for charity!)

Duke finds out he has kissed Sebastian's twin sister and later tells "Sebastian" who eagerly tells him he should pursue Viola and forget about Olivia. Meanwhile, Olivia has decided she's falling for Sebastian who has told her earlier that she's not "his" type (yeah, no kidding), so to make "him" jealous, Olivia starts flirting with Duke right in front of Viola as Sebastian, which of course makes Viola angry.

To complicate matters more, the real Sebastian gets home a day early and is greeted with a kiss by Olivia who runs up to him as he's getting out of his taxi and tells him she'll see him tomorrow at the big soccer game, then runs off. Yes, I realize it was dark when she did this, but still, she couldn't tell it was a completely different person? Duke sees this from his dorm and when he sees Viola as Sebastian he accuses "him" of going behind his back and kissing Olivia which confuses Viola since she has no idea what he's talking about. At first she thinks Duke has figured out who she really is and is about to confess, then Duke says he saw "him" kissing Olivia.

Somehow, Viola has found somewhere else to sleep and the actual Sebastian sleeps in the dorm room and is woken up by the guys so he doesn't miss the big game. Okay, I realize everyone was in a big hurry and Sebastian's face is painted, but still? Nobody noticed that Sebastian's voice was completely different or he had grow half a foot or his face no longer had his delicate and smooth features? No more smooth, dainty hands? NOBODY noticed any of this?

Yep, can't tell these two apart!
A student at the school finds out the truth about Sebastian and Viola and tells the principal (played by David Cross) and is ready to expose Sebastian as a girl during a time out in the game. Sebastian says he is not a girl and to prove it, he pulls down his pants. The fact that he's so willing to pull down his pants in front of a whole stadium of people is a little weird, but maybe that explains why Olivia is so ready to end up with him. Yes, Olivia ends up with the real Sebastian even though it was really Viola she was into and the one she got to know. I really thought we were going to get a scene where Olivia finds out she likes girls, or, at least discovers she is bisexual, but nope! She's ready to date a guy she's never met before in her entire life. Super weird. The movie tries to make it out like they've been soul mates all along because in an earlier scene Olivia finds Sebastian's lyrics in the coat Viola is wearing when she's posing as her brother and she's just so enamored by them.

Viola manages to switch places with a confused Sebastian and explains to him what she's been doing for the past two weeks. She plays in the game and scores the winning point. That's when she reveals she's really a lifting up her shirt. Again, if I were these two kids' parents, I would be a little concerned they're so willing to strip in huge crowds of people. Also, wasn't she supposed to be wearing a bandage around her chest to disguise her breasts? That bandage is magically missing when she lifts her shirt (though she you don't see anything...this is a PG rated movie, after all!)

In the end, Viola ends up with Duke and attends Illyria. I don't think this movie would fare very well today. It's not very woke. There's some blatant homophobia coming from Duke whenever Viola as Sebastian tells him how hot he is. He seems very offended that who he thinks is a guy is telling him that. If I were Viola, I would re-evaluate this guy and ask myself if I would want to go out with him. That said, this movie has to be much better than Ladybugs, that movie where Jonathan Brandis dresses as a girl and plays on the all girls soccer team that Rodney Dangerfield coaches. I've never seen it (don't think I'm missing anything), but it seems to send a very sexist message saying girls need the help of a strong boy to win sports! Again, I've never seen it, so maybe it's an empowering movie, who knows, but somehow I highly doubt it. At least She's the Man is above that...but I don't know how much higher the bar goes! 

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