Much like the Snow White rip off that I reviewed the other day, this is another film that I have no recollection of adding to my watch list. In fact I thought my girlfriend had added it as it is a musical romantic comedy. Unlike Snow White however, I am very glad I did add it for whatever reason* as it turns out to be a charming and very funny film. It isn’t particularly deep or meaningful and the plot won’t have you scratching your head but it made me laugh and gave us a warm and contented feeling when it was finished.
The plot will be familiar to anyone who has ever watched a High School romantic comedy. Ben Foster plays Burke Landers who, in the opening credits, gets dumped by his childhood sweetheart Alison McAllister (Melissa Sagemiller). After she starts dating new guy Bentley Scrumfeld (Shane West), Burke sets out on a quest to win her back. Along the way he gets in the school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Burke’s best friend’s little sister Kelly (Kirstin Dunst) just happens to be an undiscovered musical and acting genius and steps in to help Burke out when it becomes apparent that he has no acting, dancing or singing skills.
This could have turned into the kind of cringe-fest that seems to pass for comedy these days but although there is a bit of that kind of thing, the film tends to concentrate on the relationships and some surreal comedy and musical routines. The pacing seems to be perfect, never leaving you for too long without a laugh but not drawing out the surreal or farcical (or cringe worthy) scenes so long that they become annoying and distract from the overall story.
*Kirstin Dunst is obviously the star of this film, although she is not the main character, and puts in a strong performance as the overlooked girl who is pretty and clever but somehow not interesting to the boy she likes. The rest of the young cast put in supporting performances which are solid but ultimately unmemorable. Shane West sports an outrageous accent which grates to start with but ultimately adds to his over the top ex-boy band star sleazy character.
A couple of the older cast stand out where they are allowed to go a bit wild in their roles. Swoozie Kurtz and Ed Begley Jr. are outrageously eccentric and painfully hip as Burke’s liberal, relationship/sex guru, parents and have some great lines for characters that don’t get much screen time. Martin Short as the failed artist turned high school music “Professor” Dr. Desmond Forrest Oates seems to have been given free rein to release his inner crazy and has some hilarious scenes berating the students for being rubbish at performing the rock musical version of Midsummer Night’s Dream which he has written.
Obviously, in keeping with the format, all the crappy students who can’t dance or sing end up putting on a stunning performance for a brilliant musical finale which is way better than most “proper” musical films I’ve seen.