"Whatever it Takes" continues the recent surge of romantic teen comedies, given new life by the success of films like 10 Things I Hate About You, She's All That and, more notably, American Pie. In fact, "Whatever it Takes" often feels like an amalgamation of so many of the recent teen romance movies. The plot focuses on a somewhat unpopular high schooler who is incredibly taken by the school beauty queen, played by Jodi Lynn O'Keefe who, after She's All That, should have this role down patt. In order to try to woo her, he makes a deal with pretty-boy Chris who wants his help to woo Ryan's buddy next door, Maggie ( Marla Sokoloff, from the television show "The Practice," ). While featuring fairly enjoyable performances from the cast, featuring Shane West, Sokoloff and O'Keefe, the film is extremely predictable, short on laughs and short on originality. While movies of this genre are often somewhat predictable, here, the viewer is often left just waiting for each next scene to unfold exactly as predicted.
Director David Raynr, in the film's feature length audio commentary, takes issue with the many reviewers who felt similarly about the movie and states that the film is really made for its target audience of teenagers. While I am now a number of years removed from my teenage years, the film still seems to fall short of the bar in place from the teenager films I watched during those years.
Despite its utter predictability, the film does have a few fun scenes, especially the seen of Ryan (West) rocking out in celebration with his accordian. One other highlight in the film is the character of Ryan's mom, the school nurse, played by Saturday Night Live alum Julia Sweeney. Here, the film does break with teenage romance film cliches, and such a break should be applauded. The out-of touch, authoritarian parent would be out of place here, and Sweeny's fairly original character is good for a few laughs and is a nice addition to the plot of the film.
All in all, however, the film feels thoroughly derivative, with plot elements from many different films popping up throughout the film, and does not contain enough laughs to warrant checking this film out.
"Whatever It Takes" is presented in both full screen and wide screen fomats, with the widescreen presentation on Side A. in original 1.85:1 anamorphic aspect ratio. The picture is fairly clear throughout, but did seem to fall a bit short in a couple of scenes in the film of the standard for presentation set forth by Columbia Tristar in its earlier releases. The colors are fairly accurate, however, and the above mentioned lack of crispness does not seriously interfere with the enjoyment of the film.
The film is presented in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Surround 2.0 sound. There were no major problems with the sound presentation on the DVD and the volume levels need virtually no adjustment throughout the film. Both dialogue and music come through clear, and the sound is rather enjoyable throughout the film. In addition, the DVD features an isolated music score.
The DVD does contain a fair amount of extras, featuring trailers for the film, talent files for the director and stars of the film, a short making of featurette which is substantially similar to an extended trailer for the film, with a couple of short interview snippets thrown in, four deleted scenes, and a cast and crew feature length commentary featuring Director David Raynr, and stars Marla Sokoloff and Shane West. Finally, the DVD contains DVD-Rom materials with a direct weblink accessible from one's computer.
The Deleted Scenes- The DVD contains four very short deleted scenes. Three of the scenes are completely new to the film and one is an extension of a scene in the film. All four of the scenes are extremely short, but a couple of them are good for a laugh. It becomes apparent, however, from listening to the director's commentary that there were a great number of scenes cut from the film or altered, but alll but four were omitted from the bonus materials.
The Cast and Crew Commentary: While very informative about experiences shooting scenes of the film, the commentary is dominated by Director Raynr's stories about not having enough time to shoot scenes and railing against the MPAA for its arbitrary rules and requirements for a PG-13 rating. (Apparently, the MPAA didn't get the message from South Park: Bigger Longer and Uncut) Raynr explains exactly what requirements were imposed on him and what was originally intended but ultimately cut. Only one such scene ends up in the Deleted Scenes, however. Sokoloff and West tell a good number of tales from the front about occassionally nightmarish conditions around the set, however, the commentary never rises to the party atmosphere into which many group commentaries evolve.
While undeniably better than the almost unwatchable "Down to You," there are certainly better and more original romantic teen comedies more deserving of a first or even second viewing than "Whatever It Takes." While Raynr may be correct that this film really is a lot more enjoyable for those in the target audience of those 18 and under, for all others, I'd advise skipping this film.