Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Robert Iscove
Stars: Freddie prinze jr, Rachael Leigh Cook, Matthew Lillard, Paul Walker, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, Kevin Pollack, Keiran Culkin, Elden Henson, Anna Paquin, Usher Raymond, Kimberley Jones, Debbi Morgan, Tim Matheson, Gabrielle Union, Dale Hull.

If John Hughes had made a version of Pygmalion, then chances are that it would resemble She’s All That. First time feature director Robert Iscove takes the basic plot, updates it to an American high school setting, and gives it a contemporary soundtrack. Iscove, who hails from a background in television and live theatre, gives the familiar concept a new spin, making it fresh and relevant for younger audiences.

Zack Siler (Freddie Prinze jr, from I Know What You Did Last Summer, etc) is the most popular guy at school – a sports star, brilliant student, and president of the student body, he seems to have it all. But then his long time girl friend Taylor Vaughan (Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, from Halloween H20) dumps him for the improbably named Brock Hudson (Matthew Lillard, from Hackers, etc), the narcissistic and dopey star of a tv sitcom. Crestfallen and humiliated, Zack enters into a bet with fellow jock Dean Sampson (Paul Walker, recently seen in Varsity Blues) that he can transform any girl in the school into a beauty and potential prom queen in just six weeks.

The chosen subject turns out to be Laney Boggs (newcomer Rachael Leigh Cook), the elusive, uptight outcast. Under Zack’s attention, Laney slowly blossoms into a beauty, and gains a new lease on life. Romance also blossoms, as the shallow Zack finds himself drawn by Laney’s combination of intelligence and good looks, hidden beneath her usually dowdy exterior. But the transformation is not without its set backs, as jealousy and rivalry raise their ugly heads as the prom night approaches.

The primarily youthful cast mixes fresh young faces, many of whom have appeared in a number of recent teen slasher flicks, with a couple of rap stars (Usher and Kimberley “Li’l Kim” Jones). Their performances are solid, although Prinze, Cook and a wonderfully bitchy O’Keefe are the standouts. Kevin Pollack (The Usual Suspects, etc) also delivers a nicely underplayed performance as Laney’s father, who initially seems to live in a different world from his two children, but who ultimately turns out to be sympathetic and understanding.

She’s All That is a teen movie that doesn’t always resort to the usual clichés or stereotypes of the genre, nor does it patronise its audience. It’s all the better for this. There are a few gross out moments along the way, but overall She’s All That is more entertaining than one would expect. Somewhat surprisingly, this film comes from successful independent studio Miramax. Not content with the room full of Oscars their films have earned, the Weinstein brothers seem to be moving away from the strictly art house movies of the past to embrace more shamelessly commercial, mainstream product.

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