Nineties Non-Sequitur: She’s All That is Completely Unbelievable
Film is about imagination. Film is about pushing the bounds of belief and inventing new realities. Film is about making us believe in the unbelievable. But She’s All That takes it a step too far, right?
Last weekend I saw Captain America: the Winter Soldier. It’s a movie about a roided-up super soldier from World War 2 who was frozen for 70 years and then came back to the present and fought a technology-heavy battle against a spoiler alert that I won’t finish.
It doesn’t matter what that spoiler is, at this point, the story was already pretty unreal. My father was born after WW2 ended and lived his whole life while technology grew around him and he just learned this week that clicking the record button a second time allows you to set up a series recording for a show. There’s no way Captain America understands how to replace a microchip on a flying death-machine.
Not only does Cap understand all the technology in the movie, he’s also instantly recovered from his deep freeze to be running faster than anyone alive, lifting more than anyone alive and generally being more of superhero than anyone alive.
This post isn’t about Captain America. But it needs to be understood that I watched the entire movie and enjoyed it because I could connect the dots and understand what was happening. I was able to suspend disbelief enough to accept what the movie was telling me and turn it into genuine emotions that I felt without reserve.
We just wrote a weeklong series of posts about a second movie that would have aliens invading earth and stealing the basketball talent of real-life people so that another real-life person could beat the now cartoon versions of the original people. It was fun to do because my mind could contain the idea.
This post isn’t about Space Jam 2 either, it’s about She’s All That, particularly the absurdity of the bet at the heart of the story. It’s utterly offensive. So much so that I can’t even watch the movie without constantly commenting on how unrealistic it is. I’ve watched movies where regular people fly, dead people come back to life, whatever, I will momentarily accept all of that. But the She’s All That bet is just a step too far.
For anyone unfamiliar with the movie, here’s a short synopsis: All-American high school studmuffin and prom king frontrunner Zack Siler (played famously by Freddie Prinze Jr.) returns from spring break only to get dumped by his girlfriend, the only person on the planet as popular as he is. In an effort to show how replaceable she was (and how popular he is), Zack makes a bet with his friend (the late Paul Walker) that he can turn any girl into the prom queen in only six weeks. Any girl.
Paul gets to pick one girl from the entire school universe to transform into the prom queen. It’s going to be a long shot, right? She’s going to be horrifying, right? She must be disfigured, she must be offensive, she must be completely and utterly unremarkable, right? This is where the problem lies.
Out of all of the zeroes at Freddie Prinze Jr. High that stand absolutely no chance of popularity, Paul Walker picks … Laney Boggs, played by 90’s Hall of Fame hottie Rachael Leigh Cook. And she’s not even boring or weird or mean, she’s just misunderstood. All of the popular kids like her immediately, probably because the producers felt like they couldn’t push the story too far.
The entire concept of the movie is that a man can prove his dominance in the social sphere by getting the common people to see beauty in one of the all-time 90’s-est, babeist 90’s babes? That’s too much.
I’ll take the WWII vet being Super after 70 frozen years. I’ll even take the man vs. cartoon basketball game for galactic domination. But are you trying to tell me that you can throw glasses, paint-splattered overalls and a sloppy hairdo on Rachael Leigh Cook and all of a sudden I’m supposed to think she’s woefully unattractive?
Come on, She’s All That. That’s like the Toon Squad telling the Monstars that they get to pick one human player to lead the Toon team and they pick Michael Jordan. It’s like Wesley Snipes hustling streetball players by duping them into playing against Magic Johnson. It’s unbelievable to the point of necessary ridicule.
Laney Boggs v. Some Woman in a battle for prom supremacy is like Kelly Kapowski vs. Wendy Parks (that girl who paid to win Zack Morris in the date auction, but her weight was so severe that he tried to weasel is way out of it), it’s not even going to be a contest. No matter how much you tell me that the underdog is the underdog, it just doesn’t pass the eye test.
In an interesting editorial decision, Laney didn’t even need a montage to get made over, she went from the nerd (who was already a 9.9) to the babe (10) in one scene and one staircase descent. The serious conflict of the movie was disarmed in one scene.
With all of the effort to turn Laney into this popularity machine, Freddie ends up actually falling in love with her, which we’re supposed to understand as some kind of social miracle. Think about it, some guy actually falling for Rachael Leigh Cook. Oh wait …
This has haunted me for almost 15 years now. Something needed to be said.