It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Sometimes while you're watching a movie, you can sense the presence of a wicked intelligence slipping zingers into a formula plot. I had that feeling all during "She's All That," which is not based on a blindingly original idea ("Pygmalion" and "My Fair Lady" got there first). It's about how the most popular guy in the senior class makes a bet that he can take a dorky girl and turn her into a prom queen. There's fun in the plot, but there's more fun around the edges. The movie stars Freddie Prinze Jr. as Zack, who has the third best grade point average in his class, and is also the captain of the soccer team and dates the beautiful class sexpot Taylor (Jodi Lyn O'Keefe). But Taylor breaks up with him after going to Daytona Beach and meeting Brock Hudson, star of "The Real World," an MTV show in which real kids are cast more or less as themselves. I only got a quick glimpse, but I think Brock has a tattoo of himself on his right arm.
Taylor is sure she'll be prom queen. Zack's buddies bet him he can't take another girl and make her the queen. He accepts, and chooses Laney (Rachael Leigh Cook), a mousy wallflower who paints down in her basement. In this affluent Southern California community, it doesn't help that her dad is "Dr. Pool" (Kevin Pollak), owner of a pool-cleaning service.
Will Laney undergo a startling transformation? What do you think? I wanted to applaud when Zack unleashed the classic line, "Do you always wear those glasses?" Of course it is an unbreakable rule of this formula that the ugly duckling is a swan in disguise: Rachael Leigh Cook is in fact quite beautiful, as was Audrey Hepburn, you will recall, in "My Fair Lady." Just once I'd like to see the "Pygmalion" formula applied to a woman who was truly unattractive.
To give the movie credit, it's as bored with the underlying plot as we are. Even the prom queen election is only a backdrop for more interesting material, as "She's All That" explores differences in class and style, and peppers its screenplay with very funny little moments.
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