Despite Weak Comedy, You Again Still Has Some Heart
- Monday, September 27, 2010
Release Date: September 24, 2010
Rating: PG (for brief mild language and rude behavior)
Run Time: 105 min.
Director: Andy Fickman
Actors: Kristen Bell, Odette Yustman, Jamie Lee Curtis, Sigourney Weaver, Victor Garber, Betty White, Kristin Chenoweth, Jimmy Wolk, Kyle Bornheimer
If you've never seen a romantic comedy, or a story about old rivalries rekindled, then you might—just might—find You Again tolerable, even enjoyable. It's well performed by a game cast that tries to make the most of a screenplay that's virtually free of surprises.
It's not the worst movie of the year—it even has a few things going for it, including a positive message about moving past old hurts and reconciling with past enemies. But the attempts at humor stumble early and the story never achieves any kind of comic momentum or energy. The story isn't lifeless, but it's limp.
Marni (Kristen Bell) was an acne-riddled, braces-wearing laughingstock in high school, where she bore the brunt of "school warden" J.J.'s (Odette Yustman) wrath. Years later, Marni has blossomed into a beautiful PR exec on the professional fast track. She's put her past behind her, using it only to relay to others that they, too, can overcome the horrors of high school and succeed beyond their wildest imaginings.
Marni's message is put to the test when her brother (Jimmy Wolk) gets engaged to Joanna—formerly "J.J." A visit home to meet the bride-to-be sends Marni into a tailspin, as she reverts to her insecure teenage self. Marni's mother, Gail (Jamie Lee Curtis), is the voice of sanity, and she encourages Marni to give Joanna a second chance—until Gail meets Joanna's Aunt Ramona (Sigourney Weaver), who was Gail's own high-school "frenemy."
You can tick off the other character types as they appear on-screen: a bewildered father (Victor Garber), a wacky wedding coordinator (Kristin Chenoweth), a grandmother who refers to her own eyebrow-raising past behavior (Betty White) and a jilted ex-boyfriend (Kyle Bornheimer). Fortunately, these performers brings their "A" game to the "D"-level script, and their efforts result in the film's few enjoyable moments. Best of all is Bornheimer, who resembles a heavier-set Jim Carrey. His facial contortions and physical tics suggest a performer of considerable comedic ability.
Among the principal actors, Weaver and Curtis outshine their younger co-stars. Weaver, best known for playing female action hero Ripley in the Alien films, often excels when playing the villain (see Working Girl or Holes). She's an actress who makes every movie she's in better. Curtis has finally been given a chance to play a character with more than one dimension, and she handles the role gracefully. Bell and Yustman do as they're asked, but neither showcases notable comedic skills.
The chief problem with You Again isn't the acting, but the pathetic lack of laughs for this supposed comedy. The film sets its story in motion and trudges along through each plot point, but it never gets us to invest in Marni or her situation. Sure, many viewers will identify with being the object of high-school bullying, but the film stretches believability in creating a scenario whereby Marni can carry out her own form of revenge on Joanna. That makes the positive lessons of the film—about giving people a second chance and reconciling—feel less earned than they might have otherwise. In any case, those lessons arrive after most of the movie has already failed to sustain our interest.
You Again is a wasted opportunity. The cast members show that they're old pros when it comes to playing familiar roles, but they can't breathe enough life into the amateurish script. A lack of objectionable material is the film's chief selling point, but You Again is a good example of why inoffensiveness isn't reason enough to recommend a film. Filmmakers need to give viewers a positive reason to see their films, but those positive elements need to come across with conviction. That requires more investment in a believable scenario than You Again offers. The total package leaves too much to be desired, although it has a few fun moments within it.
- Language/Profanity: None.
- Smoking/Drinking/Drugs: A beverage is described as an umbrella drink.
- Sex/Nudity: Kissing.
- Violence: A student is kicked in the face by a cheerleader; a woman on an airplane bangs her head on an overhead compartment; a woman falls into an ant hill and is bitten multiple times; destruction of plates, glassware, a vase; two people fall from a tree; punch is poured over someone's head.
- Religion/Morals/Lessons: Story shows how high school reputations can follow us, but also be overcome; a successful professional says she learned to believe in herself and encourages others to do the same; a crack that a woman is "Satan's spawn"; Marni's father has studied the mind/body connection; everyone is said to deserve a second chance; a fertility dance is performed; a joke about a suicide hotline; high-energy dance routines might be seen as sexually suggestive; Marni' brother refers to her "evil plan"; regrets expressed about past behavior, including failed marriages; a woman says making mistakes is "part of what we do," and that it's "how we go about fixing them that matters"; it is said that only the strong survive and that the meek shall not inherit the earth.
**This review first published on September 27, 2010
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