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IN SHORT: Totally Rufus. [Rated PG-13]
You've got to pay attention to the action in Never Been Kissed to understand "totally rufus," one of those phrases that means nothing to anyone outside of high school. Back in Cranky's day it was "killer." Never Been Kissed goes on to show that the old adage is true, "the more things change the more they stay the same..."
Readers who saw last week's sneak preview have been e-mailing Cranky, raving about this movie. Cranky joins the acclaim. Never Been Kissed is a terrific movie, not just for old fogeys like Cranky; both retirees and kidlets alike were laughing heartily in the preview I attended. This movie is fun and funny. The main characters have depth and the necessary stereotype support characters don't steal any more scenes than they are supposed to.
When 25 year old plain jane Josie Geller (Drew Barrymore) says she's never been kissed she means "kissed in that way that things around you become hazy and you realize that that person is the only person you should kiss for the rest of your life." How big a geek was Josie in her high school days? Let's put it this way: if you thought you were geeky in your school days, and there was still one person who was geekier then you, well that person was probably Josie. Now a copy editor at the Chicago Sun-Times, with the annoying habit of correcting grammar and word usage errors in every conversation she hears, Josie yearns to be an undercover reporter. The problem is that Gus, (John C. Reilly) her boss, likes her just where she is. When the publisher (Garry Marshall) gets a bright idea, that one of his reporters should go back to high school, Josie gets the assignment. Not that she looks like she's 17, but that's the way the story goes.
Josie is still as out of her element in the high school of 1999 as she was eight years ago, when Pat Benetar was still making hits. There may be metal detectors and weapons searches in our modern day educational institutions, but the class structure from geek to incredibly good-looking, cool people is pretty much the same. Given a second chance to be successful at high school, Josie desperately tries to fit in. Flashbacks to the humiliations of her original high school days show us how incredibly wretched that life was. Cranky'll be honest here. In these flashbacks, Drew Barrymore looks like hell. Braces on the teeth and stringy unwashed hair. Yech.
Befriended by Aldys (Leelee Sobieski -- a dead ringer for a young Helen Hunt) the head of the calculus team, Josie soon finds herself attracted to English teacher Mr. Colson (Michael Vartan), and he to her. To editor Gus, whose job is riding on Josie's ability to find a hot and sexy story, this illegal mix is perfect. Josie, on the other hand, doesn't want go there. At least not in black and white for the readers of the Sun-Times or on the surveillance videotapes beamed back from a pin on her sweater to the staff at the paper.
The final player in our scenario is Josie's younger brother Rob (David Arquette), life has meant nothing since his days on the baseball team. Rob follows his sister's example and heads back to school, easily becoming the really cool guy. And thanks to his example, his sister becomes cool too. Arquette's perf proves that the line between geek and cool is a very fine one indeed.
Lest you think all the jokes are at the main characters expense, they're not. Well, the physical gags are but the script by first timers Abby Kohn & Marc Silverstein provides lots of easy to digest background and motivation and all those things critics like to write about. Director Raja Gosnell moves everything along at a brisk pace and tosses in a passel of visual gags as well. Cranky thinks no one on this crew had a better time than production designer Steven Jordan. When you see South Glen High's Senior prom, there's enough visual stimulation packed into the scene that you may want to go back to catch everything you missed on first viewing..
I haven't even touched on school hunk (Jeremy Jordan), or Josie's best pal (Molly Shannon). Or the hash brownies. You'll have to discover that for yourself. Never Been Kissed's story packs more punch than the average chop sockey flick. The jokes in the script will offer you lots of things to be nostalgic about, in a "I remember being like that or knowing people like that" kind of way.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Never Been Kissed, he would have paid...
Killer fun. Total killer date flick.
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