Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Never Been Kissed

1999, US, directed by Raja Gosnell

Rating: **

I've always found Drew Barrymore to be charming performer, capable of giving a lift to sub-par fare (there are plenty of examples in her cinematic CV), but given her executive producer credit she has only herself to blame for the extremely weak script here, rendering her energy pretty ineffective. The story is padded out to inexcusable length: there's really no reason for this kind of thing to come in over the 90-minute mark unless the wit quotient is much higher.

Barrymore plays a woman whose first journalistic assignment is to go undercover in a high school - to expose the seamy side of modern education, and not incidentally give her own high school memories a makeover. A decent Hollywood movie takes the time to invent a vaguely credible world that at least makes sense on its own terms, whereas Never Been Kissed doesn't care to patch the absurd plot holes, even drawing attention to them (there's a scene that makes much of the security scanners at the school entrance, and yet this long-in-the-tooth high schooler has no apparent trouble enrolling in the first place). I know that realism is not the primary object here, but the filmmakers seem to have little sense of the kind of craftsmanship that would lend their film a little more cohesiveness. The usual high school cliches are trotted out with little conviction, and the film fudges its central romantic problem - Drew can either date a kid or a teacher who thinks she's a kid - by essentially ignoring it aside from one line delivered with little conviction. Even the supporting cast - usually the saviours of this kind of film - are rather lacklustre, except for Leelee Sobieski, who deserved better.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States