It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"Never Been Kissed'' stars Drew Barrymore as a copy editor for that excellent newspaper, the Chicago Sun-Times. I recommend its use as a recruiting film--not because it offers a realistic view of journalistic life, but because who wouldn't want to meet a copy editor like Barrymore? Even when she's explaining the difference between "interoffice'' and "intraoffice,'' she's a charmer. The movie's screenplay is contrived and not blindingly original, but Barrymore illuminates it with sunniness, and creates a lovable character. I think this is what's known as star power.
She plays a 25-year-old named Josie Geller, who despite a few unhappy early experiences with spit-swapping has indeed never really been kissed. At the paper, she issues copy-editing edicts while hiding behind a mousy brown hairdo and a wardrobe inspired by mudslides. Her editor, played as subtly as one of the Three Stooges by Garry Marshall, likes to pound the conference table with a bat while conducting meetings; he wants an undercover series on high school life and assigns Josie, because she looks young enough.
That sets up Josie's chance to return to high school and get it right. The first time around, she was known as "Josie Grossie,'' an ugly duckling with braces on her teeth, hair in her eyes, baby fat, pimples and glasses. Barrymore does a surprisingly convincing job of conveying this insecure lump of unpopularity; it's one of the reasons we develop such sympathy for Josie.
Josie borrows a car from her brother Rob (David Arquette), a once-promising baseball player who now works in a store that's a cross between Kinko's and Trader Vic's. She adopts a new blond hairstyle and gets rid of the glasses. But her first day on her secret assignment gets off to the wrong start, thanks to a wardrobe (white jeans and a gigantic feather boa) that might have been Cruella DeVil's teenage costume. The popular girls mock her, but she's befriended by Aldys (Leelee Sobieski), leader of the smart kids: "How are you at calculus? How would you like to join the Denominators?'' That's the math club, with matching sweatshirts.