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She's the Man - 15th Anniversary Edition
Although her overbearing mother (Julie Hagerty) wants nothing more than for Viola (Amanda Bynes) to be the kind of girl who dreams of debutante balls, Viola's passion lies elsewhere. She and her friends are all on the soccer team, hoping to get into college on sports scholarships, a plan that hits a roadblock when not enough players sign up and the school cuts girls' soccer. The girls petition to turn the boys' soccer team into a co-ed sport, but the coach shoots them down. Luckily for Viola, her brother Sebastian has his own passion for music, and when he ducks out of the first two weeks of school at Illyria, she gets a crazy idea: pose as her brother for two weeks, get on the soccer team, and beat her former school in an upcoming rivalry game.
For the 15th anniversary of She's the Man, Paramount is offering up the movie's Blu-ray debut, and seeing the film again in 2021 couldn't possibly be a stranger experience. The movie feels like the truest definition of a pop culture artifact, because pretty much every major element -- the concept, the (unintentionally) political nature of the plot, the cast -- lands much differently a decade and a half later. For a goofy studio comedy, and one that is (sorry, fans) a decidedly mixed bag, there's a surprising amount of elements worth discussing here.
For one thing, it's interesting to look at She's the Man as part of a nearly forgotten teen movie trend: modernized Shakespeare adaptations. It's hard to say whether or not Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet led to 10 Things I Hate About You, but there's no question the latter led to She's the Man, with that film's screenwriters Karen McCullah and Kirsten Smith even getting credit for a draft of this movie, alongside Ewan Leslie, who came up with the story and gets first credit on the finished screenplay. Although the film does follow the broad strokes of the Bard's gender-bending love triangle, the integration of Shakespeare feels clunkier than 10 Things (a teen classic), and the slapstick and goofy comedy aren't as smoothly blended with romantic comedy sentiment. In the end, one sort of wonders if the shared elements were enough for the homage to really matter. Bynes would go onto appear in an evolution of the trend, a Snow White adaptation called Sydney White, but the movie flopped.
Speaking of Bynes, she and her co-star Channing Tatum have both found their careers drastically transformed since 2006. The recent documentary about Britney Spears and the pressure young women face under the spotlight definitely seemed to bring up memories of Bynes, who has since retreated from showbiz and who has spoken about having body issues after seeing herself in the film made up to look like Sebastian. Her performance in the movie is both funny and charming, but feels like it lacks a guiding hand -- her roots in goofy sketch comedy represent a real talent for physical comedy (there are times when she can score a laugh just from the expression on her face), but she does sometimes feel like she's in a far more ridiculous movie than the rest of the cast. On the other hand, her instincts can't be faulted in regards to Tatum, who she fought to have cast. The role could be meatier, but Tatum's natural charisma is obvious, as are some of the himbo comedy chops that would later serve him well in the Jump Street and Magic Mike movies.
The most awkward element, however (some of which is coincidental timing), is how the film handles its overall message. When Viola finds out her team has been cut, the coach spews a couple of talking points that will be depressingly familiar to anyone following the bigoted, right-wing attack on trans children looking to play sports in school: women aren't as strong, women aren't as fast, etc. In theory, the film has a fairly progressive viewpoint, which is that sports are not inherently gendered. Unfortunately, the script later builds to a climax in which both the real Sebastian and Viola flash parts of their bodies to assert their own gender, which not only muddles the message, but is also just an extremely weird and somewhat creepy moment to put in a movie about high schoolers. In She's the Man's defense, these sorts of concerns weren't on the filmmakers' minds at the time (not to mention, the film is almost entirely free of the kind of casual homophobia that plagues early-2000s teen movies), but it does add a strange note to the 15th anniversary celebration.
She's the Man simplifies the original DVD and poster artwork for Blu-ray, probably to emphasize Channing Tatum among the film's cast (although it's a little awkward that whoever assembled the art couldn't find a photo of Tatum with the same resolution as the photo of Bynes). The one-disc release comes in an eco-friendly Viva Elite Blu-ray case, with a sheet inside the case offering a digital copy code, and a sticker on the plastic wrap announcing the anniversary and noting that this is the movie's Blu-ray debut.
The Video and Audio
Although they've been on a 4K remastering kick recently, She's the Man doesn't appear to be among the films they've revisited. The 1.78:1 1080p AVC-encoded transfer offered here is solid, offering strong color saturation, good detail, and no signs of artificial scrubbing. On the other hand, there is maybe a tiny hint of sharpening baked into the image (good detail could be better), and depth is minimal. Sound is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that actually gets a decent workout, between slapstick comedy, group soccer practice, and a pop song soundtrack, all of which it handles with run-of-the-mill adequacy. In both departments, this 15th anniversary edition is solid enough but nothing to write home about. A lossy DD 5.1 French track, English and Spanish subtitles, and English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing are all also included.
After a couple of releases that were met with disappointment by consumers, it seems like Paramount might have learned their lesson, with She's the Man dutifully porting everything that was on their Special Collector's Edition DVD years ago: two audio commentaries (one with director Andy Fickman, writer Ewan Leslie, and actors Amanda Bynes, Channing Tatum, Laura Ramsey, Robert Hoffman, and Alex Breckinridge, the other with Leslie and producer Lauren Shuler Donner), three featurettes, deleted scenes with optional commentary, a gag reel, a music video, and the film's original theatrical trailer.
Ultimately, this Blu-ray of She's the Man seems best suited toward the film's existing fans, who will probably continue to enjoy the film, warts and all. Paramount has retained all the extras, so people can safely retire their DVDs, and the movie looks and sounds decent. For newcomers, the film itself is a mixed bag; even viewing the movie through the lens of 2006, it's got an uneven script, a strong but occasionally discordant lead performance, and just isn't as good as some of the films it's indebted to. Rent it.
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