REMEMBER WHEN teen movies were outlandish and not for the eyes of parents? Well, an accordion player in his boxer shorts is as risky as the business gets in this amusing but simplistic comedy ostensibly set among high school geeks.
Yet Ryan (Shane West of Liberty Heights) is far too handsome to be a geek. He plays the accordion, is relatively undumb, and has a thing for Ashley (Jodi Lyn O'Keefe of She's All That), the town hottie at whose prissy rich-girl feet the boys are always falling. Meanwhile, shy, bookish Maggie (Marla Sokoloff of TV's The Practice) is Ryan's pal, but way too pretty to be a geek. At the top of the food chain stands Chris (James Franco of TV's Freaks and Geeks), a rich, philandering jock who's smitten with Maggie and enlists Ryan's help to nail her.
WHATEVER IT TAKES
directed by David Raynr
with Shane West, Marla Sokoloff, James Franco, and Jodi Lyn O'Keefe
opens March 24 at Metro, Oak Tree, Pacific Place
So, as the movie's tag line asks, "How low will they go to get the girls of their dreams?"
The initial premise to Whatever, a "modern remake" of Cyrano de Bergerac, is something like: Sweet talk gets the girl. Accordingly, Ryan—Cy-Ryan-O, get it?—coaches Chris on what to say. Naturally Chris can't be charming/witty without Ryan's tutelage, yielding some funny moments when he's left alone with Maggie.
Also funny is the fact that Ashley, underneath the makeup, is really an insecure, neurotic bundle of freakishness and back hair, and that Ryan need only prey on her insecurities to win her. Or maybe this isn't funny at all. But we must forgive our beloved Ryan for setting up Maggie with Mr. "Nail-'n'-Bail" because boys will be boys and they'll do outrageous things to get in the pants of beautiful girls, right? While insecure girls can only attain self-worth by accommodating sex-starved boys, right?
Wrong. I'm not one to lament the debasement of theater classics, but this lightweight treatment of Cyrano adds little to its borrowed story—or to the teen film genre. The final, predictable resolution is too easily solved, and the adolescent antics aren't nearly outrageous enough for a good romp. (Although the geeks do hatch a brilliantly funny plot to ruin the prom and thus make inspired references to Titanic.) Yet in the end, my teen-flick expert DJ Heather assures me that Whatever is much better—much funnier, anyway—than 10 Things I Hate About You or She's All That. So take that for whatever it's worth.