Saturday, October 13, 2007

Movie Review: Sydney White

Before I do the review, first a minor procedural note. Question: What is the status of this blog? The quick answer is that I don't know. It's frustrating to spend significant time on writing for a blog when nobody reads or cares about it. I think that there are more productive and enjoyable ways to spend my free time. At this point, I may re-start writing regularly at some point, I may quit writing altogether, or I may go back to my old "one really long post a month" style. I know that I'm not a very good writer, and I'm becoming less and less convinced that my blog is providing a unique or interesting viewpoint, particularly with regards to music. If the blog does return full-time, expect there to be significant changes. But, I do generally enjoy writing the posts and re-reading them. So it will probably continue in some form, at least as a vanity project.

OK, now here's a review for Sydney White. A very overdue review of Nancy Drew should be forthcoming shortly.

The Movie: Sydney White
The Plot: Sydney White's (Amanda Bynes) mom died when she was young, leaving her to be raised by her plumber father. She spent her entire youth growing up on construction sites, acting manly, etc. But, when she finally gets into college (the same college her mom went to!), she is determined to join the same sorority her mom belonged to, the Kappas. Running the Kappas is queen of the school Rachel Witchburn. When Rachel prevents Sydney from joining the Kappa sorority, she ends up with a group of offensively stereotypical dorks, who live in a run-down dorm called "The Vortex". Each of these dorks is, "hilariously", an analogue to one of Snow White's seven dwarves (by process of elimination Samm Levine's character is an analogue to Happy, but the connection is extremely thin at best). She rallies the dorks together to take down Rachel Witchburn and the Greek system and get The Vortex a little respect. Also, she has a budding romantic relationship with Tyler Prince, the hottest guy on campus and ex-boyfriend of Rachel.

Commentary: Don't be fooled by the plot summary and the seeming feel of the movie, there are several important differences between this film and Revenge of the Nerds. For example:

  • In Revenge of the Nerds, the characters live in a run down house, which they touchingly renovate half-way through the movie. In Sydney White the characters live in a run down house, which they touchingly renovate AT THE END of the movie.
  • In ROTN, the main characters are fighting against the king of the school, a jock who is president of the biggest fraternity on campus and hates nerds. In Sydney White, the main characters are fighting against the QUEEN of the school, a GLAMOROUS AND GORGEOUS GIRLY GIRL who is president of the biggest SORORITY on campus and hates DORKS.
  • In ROTN, the main character gives a touching speech at the end, where he proclaims how it's not that bad to be a nerd and gets everybody fired up. After the speech, people touchingly get up to proclaim how they are also nerds. Everybody except the evil jocks admits they are nerds and the jocks are defeated. In Sydney White, the main character gives a touching speech at the end, where SHE proclaims how it's not that bad to be a DORK and gets everybody fired up. After the speech, people touchingly get up to proclaim how they are also DORK. Everybody except RACHEL WITCHBURN admits they are nerds and RACHEL IS defeated.
OK, OK, I'll stop there, I think I've made my point. In a way, it's nice to have a throwback to the old 80's style of teen movie. There are ridiculously over-the-top nerds, and there are jocks who hate the nerds, and pretty girls who love the jocks. The problem is that this movie is just too indebted to those old movies, and content not to add anything new to the plot.

I mean, look, originality and unpredictability are far from all I look for in a movie. Sara Paxton does a great job as Rachel, in a role that's fairly dissimilar to everything else I've seen her play. I hope she continues to act in roles like these in the future. Amanda Bynes gives a good performance as always, she continues to be a real charmer. No, the performances were generally pretty good. And honestly, the unoriginality could be easily forgiven if the movie itself were more entertaining. But the movie has several other flaws: The geeks are all too over the top, and their shticks got extremely tiresome after a while. The love story/Tyler Prince aspect of the movie adds almost nothing, and probably hurts more than it helps.

And then there's the Snow White stuff. My contention is that this movie would be much better had they not tried to jam in Snow White references. Making the dorks all analogous to the dwarves is kind of cute, and I enjoyed watching that unfold. The character names, though, are groan-inducing. And, importantly, the Snow White stuff is jammed in and unnecessary, and ultimately hurts the flow of the movie. Instead of a magic mirror, Rachel checks Myspace to see who is the most popular girl on school. Once Sydney inevitably passes her to #1, she sends a computer virus to destroy her APPLE computer (Har de har har). Seeing them jam this crap into this movie almost made me cringe, and I really wish they had just played it straight, especially since the movie could/would have played essentially the same without jamming those explicit references in there.

On top of all of this, I had significant problems with the character of Sydney. She was just too damn perfect. There was seemingly nothing she couldn't do, and if she had started walking on water in the middle of the movie I would not have been surprised at all. A character has to be relateable to be likeable, and hard as Amanda tried and well as she acted, she just wasn't relateable at all. Let's see, very attractive, athletic, handy, loves sports, gives to charity, genuinely wants to be friends with dorks, totally unselfish, reads comic books, and just wants to connect with her mom. I mean, come on.

There's a kernel of a pretty good movie in here. The parts that directly involved Amanda Bynes and Sara Paxton's conflict were fun, and their interactions with each other were a hoot to watch. Unfortunately, it's the "everything else" part of the movie that drags it down.

Special notice should to to Crystal Hunt, who plays Dinky in the film. Dinky is a member of the Kappa fraternity, who is nonetheless friends with Sydney and a sympathetic character. I was extremely impressed by Crystal's work in this movie. She was SO cute, and her Southern accent was a hoot. So for cuteness, and real charm, and some good acting ability too, Crystal gets the official TCR seal of approval. I really look forward to seeing her in future work. This character was the only well done character in the film, other than Rachel, and I'm inclined to think that Crystal was a huge part of that.

Final Rating:
Amanda Bynes, Sara Paxton, and Crystal Hunt are excellent. The movie is pretty charming, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't reasonably entertained by it. That being said, this is not a movie I can recommend watching. The real problem is that it's just not a very good movie. 4/10.

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Blogger pH said...

Her name was Witchburn? Seriously? Also, I do enjoy reading your weblog and the once-a-month posts don't bother me at all since that's how often I can even access this site from China.

9:03 AM  
Anonymous Juanita said...

I personally gave this movie a 6 out of 10, but that may be just because I love Amanda Bynes so much :)

9:10 PM  
Anonymous Rachelle said...

Keep up the good work.

4:45 PM  

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