She’s the Man: Amanda Bynes Once Again Outshines Expectations

She’s the Man is easily the best teen-targeted remake of a William Shakespeare work since 10 Things I Hate About You. Because it follows Twelfth Night rather closely (thematically, at least), She’s The Man has the same quirky humor as Shakespeare’s works did, which isn’t to say that it’s exceptionally intellectual. Contrary to popular belief, however, neither were Shakespeare’s comedies, at least not in their entirety.

Written so that they would be accessible to all classes in 16th century England, Shakespeare’s comedies are often bawdy and sometimes a bit profane, all the while dealing with serious issues and making sly sociopolitical commentary. In this regard, She’s The Man mirrors the play after which it is modeled, and it does so perfectly.

The film’s cinematography is nothing to write home about, really, but it does quite well in capturing action shots in impressively interesting ways. Some of the soccer scenes are pure poetry, but they’re surprisingly few and far between if you’re expecting a film about soccer. No, this is a case of mistaken identities of the epic sort, with some illuminating commentaries on standard gender stereotypes. Amanda Bynes plays Viola, a soccer-loving teenage girl who hatches a plan when her school’s girl’s soccer team is cut and she and the other girls are told point-blank that they can’t try out for the boy’s team: She poses as her twin brother, who attends a private school across town, after he leaves for a tour of London with his band, and tries out for his school’s soccer team.

Since her own school doesn’t start for another two weeks, and her parents are both divorced and non-communicative, this is a fairly foolproof idea. From here, the film tumbles down a rabbit hole into a world of gender-bending and time-juggling as Viola tries to balance her own life with that of her brother. Her new schedule is filled with a chauvinist ex-boyfriend, her brother’s over-eager ex-girlfriend, a debutante ball, a new crush, and desperately trying to prove that she’s just as cool as the guys around her.

This is a genuinely feel-good movie. It’s funny in the right places without resorting solely to physical humor, and you might actually be able to forget at some point that you’re watching a movie and just enjoy it instead. What really makes this movie great is the acting-Bynes, while putting forth an amazing performance, does not carry this film alone. She’s supported by Channing Tatum and Laura Ramsey, neither of whom have long acting resumes, but who nonetheless put forth very authentic efforts.

Amanda Bynes does carry this film, it’s true, but the role shows that she has range beyond the raunchy humor of her youthful stint on Nickelodeon or her rags-to-riches dramatic role in What A Girl Wants. Bynes is always funny, and undoubtedly cute, but it seems that the former is always far more important to her-and isn’t this exactly the kind of role model that we need for young women-someone who believes that your personal character strengths should always far outweigh your looks?

She’s the Man certainly isn’t the type of movie to bring in Jury awards from Cannes, but it will entertain their target audience time and time again, all the while teaching them about the frivolity of social standards. Some of the teen viewers might even, after learning of the plot’s long-standing history in literature, be moved to check out that Shakespeare guy, because it turns out that he wrote a good story. A film, encouraging young women to have self-respect, stand up for what they know to be right, and read classic literature? No matter how you slice it, it sounds like a winner.

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