With the massive rebirth of teen films comes the subgenre of the “adult undercover in high school.” The basic premise is a return to the scene of the crime of past humiliations but acknowledging the saying, “If I only knew then, what I know now.” In this film, however, she still doesn’t really know.
Josie Gellar (Drew Barrymore) is an extremely smart but repressed 25 year-old copy editor for the Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert’s paper). A great writer, she really wants to be a reporter. No one takes her seriously, especially her boss, Gus (John C. Reilly), or her popular, slacker 23 year-old brother Rob (David Arquette). Why? She’s a dork. She’s never had a real personal life, never had a real kiss.
One day the crazed owner (Gary Marshall) decides it’s time today to find out what those crazy kids are up to, and sends Josie undercover into high school and she’s ordered to be popular. Josie tries, but keeps reliving past humiliations. If she’s ever going to find closure, it’s up to Rob to come bail her out and make her popular. Then, the fun really begins.
There’s a comedy goldmine here as many people, especially arty types in the entertainment industry, did not have a great time in high school.
Unfortunately, the script is a light romantic comedy and unwilling to go the extra distance to really make it stick. For that, you should see “10 Things I Hate About You”. It’s lucky the studio hired Barrymore and Arquette, two actors who know how to carry a scene. Arquette’s line deliveries alone are amazing. When he goes undercover the picture really finds its life as this agent of chaos becomes the most popular kid in school, IN A DAY. The inevitable prom scene, where the theme is “famous couples from history” has a lot of great throw away gags, as well. The problem is that the best material was the stuff that just snuck in there when no one was paying attention.
This is an okay date flick. It’s somewhat forgettable, like high school should be, but possessing a few moments it’ll be tough to get out of your head.