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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Never Been Kissed
Never Been Kissed
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted January 4, 2000 | E-mail the Author
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Drew Barrymore, in one of the year's very best performances, plays Josie Geller, a former teenage geek who's now a copy editor at the Chicago Sun Times searching for her first break as a reporter. She finds more than she bargained for when her first assignment is to go undercover at a local high school and write a piece on teenagers today.Josie has seemingly blocked the horror that was her high school years from her conscious until her brother(David Arquette) reminds her, "Don't you remember what they called you?," and in the first of many flashbacks, we learn of "Josie Grossie". If you weren't already impressed with the early levels of Barrymore's performance in this film, we get to see courage: Barrymore dressed with around an additional 40 or so pounds, braces and unwashed hair as she portrays the character as a teenager. It's definitely a sight to see: not only the costume, but just how committed Barrymore is to this performance. After a short while, I was no longer thinking of this character as watching "Drew Barrymore", I was watching "Josie Geller". Although the rest of the movie isn't always perfect, Barrymore's performance is so strong that she is this character.

I also found the newsroom scenes enjoyably authentic looking. Where it goes wrong is when people begin talking(just say to yourself, "it's just a comedy, it's just a comedy"). Anyways, we're confronted with Garry Marshall(whose appearance alone made me say, "Excuse me? What is Garry Marshall doing here? Shouldn't he be off directing something?") Well, what he's doing here is playing Josie's publisher, a guy who carries a baseball bat to meetings and fires people at random. When he gets the idea to send a reporter back to high school, Josie finds herself in his sights.

Josie finds herself in the midst of all the wonders of high school in the 90's, such as metal detectors, but she still can't find that one thing that will boost her into the "cool crowd". She tries again and again to fit in, but finds herself falling down again and again. What I liked about the film was that I cared for his character enough not to either cringe or feel embarrassed for her, but to hope that she'll get up, dust herself off and try again. She does manage to make friends with the school geek, Aldys(played by Leelee Sobieski, still looking wonderfully luminous, but also more like Helen Hunt than ever). The film throws another spin though, when Barrymore finds herself desperately needing to get into the cool crowd to finish her story. She decides to enlist the help of her younger brother, Rob(a memorably funny David Arquette) to also enlist in school and help raise her reputation in the "in crowd".

Once she's found herself fitting in, she faces another worry: finding herself attracted to her teacher(Michael Vartan). She wants the story to be kept quiet, but back at the paper they'd like it on the front page. Speaking of the paper, it's some of the funnier scenes that take place here as the entire crew gathers around to watch Josie's adventures on a hidden camera she wears. It's the plot of Josie's increasing romance with her teacher that takes us into the last act of "Never Been Kissed" and although the ending doesn't quite hit the right note, I certainly was enjoying it all far too much to notice.

The screenplay may be predictable and somewhat grounded in formula when it comes to the simple pieces of plot put together as a whole. We're asked to believe that Drew Barrymore is 17 and even further, we're asked to believe that David Arquette could be in high school. Thanks to the performances, I not only accepted these facts of the story, I didn't even give them a second thought until, well, I still haven't. Although the plot of the film may be predictable, it definitely gives Barrymore quite a bit of very funny and touching dialogue to work with throughout. There's also a great supporting cast here, such as "Saturday Night Live"'s Molly Shannon, whose character comes to visit Josie one day and finds herself giving a rather interesting speech to her class in one of the film's funniest moments.

Honestly, I'm rather tired of the teen romantic comedy genre that has thrust itself into pop culture this year with films like the awful, slow(awfully slow?) "She's All That" and the wonderfully edgy "Cruel Intentions." I think these films work when they see their audience as what they are: young adults. "Never Been Kissed" may not contain much in the way of deeper meaning, but at the same time I honestly didn't feel my intelligence was insulted by the film. I felt the performances were all excellent and honest in their emotions, with Barrymore being a force in the lead role, doing anything and everything to make us care about this character and she definitely succeeds. Josie and all of the other characters are endearing and likable and it's due to not only performances, but the fact that these characters are fully realized and wonderfully written.

Raja Gosnell also directed "Home Alone 3", which was definitely painful to sit through. Here he supplies the pace, moving the film along at a brisk and enjoyable clip. Cinematography by Alex Nepomniaschy, who has also done work on films like Todd Hayne's "Safe", is very enjoyable, capturing all of the faces and various places well. Also helping to make the film come alive is the production design by Steven J. Jordan and costume design by Mona May(who also did the costume work for "Clueless" and Barrymore's "Wedding Singer"), whose work is excellent.

"Never Been Kissed" is an extremely entertaining film that works throughout due to the performances, dialogue, and charm that the film has in excess. It has flaws here and there, but overall I found "Never Been Kissed" captivating and absolutely engaging throughout.Barrymore has worked her magic on the "teen" film and has made a simply wonderful film that will serve as an example for similar teenage films in the future to try for. Will they succeed? If they can make a teenage film this funny, sweet and charming in the near future, I'd be mighty impressed.


VIDEO: "Never Been Kissed" is another passable but not perfect non-anamorphic transfer in a line of recent decent efforts that include Pushing Tin and Ravenous. In baseball terms, kind of like a ground-rule double. It may have gotten over the wall, but it ain't a home run. Images in "Never Been Kissed" are adequately sharp, and offer a good amount of detail throughout the presentation. Colors are vibrant and at times, eye-popping, as the same costume designer who worked on "Clueless" did the work here. Hues are well-rendered as well. The colors of the student's clothing look pleasing and bold throughout. Flesh tones are natural and accurate throughout, as well.

There are a few small problems. Shimmering makes an appearance on occasion throughout the film, although the majority of the presentation is suprisingly and nicely clear of such faults. Images throughout much of "Never Been Kissed" are bright, warm and pleasing to the eye. It's really too bad that this isn't one of the upcoming titles that Fox chose to do anamorphic. The image is letterboxed at 2.35:1.

SOUND: "Never Been Kissed" contains all the elements of the usual teen comedy "sound": it puts an emphasis on the various pop/rock tunes, which sound quite good here, with nice presence and definition. Of course, this is one of those films where unfortunately, the songs do the narration for the film. For a scene when Barrymore goes back to school, a song called "You're only 17" plays on the soundtrack. In other words, the more annoying side of alternative rock. The party scene in chapter 14 sounds especially good, carrying nice bass from the music. It also captures some details nicely, such as the kids walking through the halls, talking or cheering, etc. Dialogue is the focus here, and it sounds clear throughout, with no problems- never sounding thin. A very pleasant soundtrack that gets the job done.

MENUS: Very basic menus, with no animation or anything special.

EXTRAS:: For $34.98, all you get is the trailer. Fox needs to seriously consider lowering their prices if they are going to have releases this basic in terms of features. Even though they did offer a special edition of "Ravenous" for $34.98, but even looking at that, New Line and Tristar put out special editions for as cheaply as 10 dollars less. "Never Been Kissed" is a very entertaining and very funny picture, but really, if you haven't seen it, at that price I would recommend renting it first.

Final Thoughts: If you haven't seen it, I'd recommend renting it first since $34.98 is a pretty high price for a very basic offering. Funny movie, though- one of my favorites from this year.

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