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BOYS AND GIRLS

Review by Andrew Manning (6/00)

Release: 2000, Dimension
Starring: Freddie Prinze Jr, Claire Forlani, Jason Biggs
Director: Robert Iscove
MPAA Rating: [PG-13] sexuality
Genre: Romantic Comedy


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SUMMARY

A guy (Prinze) and a girl (Forlani) who don't get along at first eventually become good friends, then later take a shot at a romance. The story follows their quirky relationship from childhood to young adulthood.

THE SUDDEN RUNDOWN

An excellent date flick that's not nearly as bad as the plot synopsis would imply, Boys and Girls is boosted by the charm of its stars.

WHAT'S GOOD

Whenever I summarize this movie for people, they always assume the same thing: this is another of those lameass teenage dating flicks. To be fair, I would probably have thought the same thing if I hadn't seen it for myself. Whenever someone presents me with the cliche plot of "can two friends who don't get along make it as lovers?" I automatically think of chatty 21-year old punks hanging out at coffeehouses. While Boys and Girls is yet another entry in that overpopulated genre, it's at the top of its class: its stars flesh out realistic, if not formulaic, characters most of us can relate to at some point in our lives.

First, I feel like I have to disarm the god-awful manner in which the studio has promoted this film. Despite what you see on advertisements, this is not a Jason Biggs movie. Dimension is desperately trying to play up his role in an attempt to ride the coattails of American Pie, which sucks because it completely misrepresents the strengths of this flick. Jason Biggs is funny of course, but he's merely delegated to the role of wisecracking sidekick to Freddie Prinze Jr. Contrary to the promotions, Freddie Prinze Jr. and Claire Forlani are the stars of this movie, and the story is focused around their characters.

Claire Forlani is one of my favorite actresses, and I've always wondered why she isn't a bigger star. To date, her roles in major studio releases have been on the small side: Sean Connery's daughter in The Rock, saucy waitress chick in Mystery Men, Jeremy London's girlfriend in Mallrats. Her biggest role was opposite Brad Pitt in Meet Joe Black. She's a talented actress, and she's drop dead fine, so why she hasn't been given a bigger slice of Hollywood is beyond me. Fantasies aside, her performance in Boys and Girls demonstrates her skills as an actress: in real life, she's in her late twenties and English. But in this movie, she drops the accent and goes from English woman to American girl like it ain't no thing, playing the apple pie, high school senior role like she was Jennifer Love Hewitt. Her character is cute and spunky, and quirky to boot: she enjoys lying, and when she is told to study, she claims, "I'm getting too smart--people are starting to shun me."

Freddie Prinze Jr, for his part, does a 180 on his typecasting--instead of playing the big man on campus, he's the social outcast the other guys kick around. The story follows his relationship with Forlani's character, which begins when they are kids (about 12 years old) traveling together on a plane. He's the nerdy, uptight sort, so of course he clashes with her from the get-go, because she's flamboyant, outgoing, and ranting about her period and the evils of marriage. Fast forward to their high school years, where they bump into each other realize they still have nothing in common. Then fast forward again into their college years, where they become an Odd Couple pair of friends. Eventually, they start to develop feelings for one another and things get complicated...

I admire the social dynamic between Prinze's and Forlani's characters because of two scenes in particular. The first is the subtle way Prinze's jealousy emerges. After sleeping around with a few losers just for kicks, Forlani tells Prinze about it because he's stuck in that dreaded "best friend" zone. But since he's falling for her, he doesn't take the news as casually as she does, and so he lashes out at her indirectly. It's not outright jealousy--merely the silent anguish of a guy who doesn't want to be privy to all those sorts of details--and I thought it was a nice touch. The second scene that came across as refreshing was when Forlani tells Prinze, that she doesn't want to be his "girlfriend substitute." I think the premise that the guy might be wanting to get it on with his best female friend for fear of venturing into the world to snag a "real" girlfriend is interesting, and I don't think a movie of this genre has ever tackled the idea in this manner.

Boys and Girls is otherwise largely predictable and the characters are general archetypes we've all seen before, but I still think it's a movie worth seeing. The stars are good, the chemistry works, and there's an abundant supply of heartache and fun--if nothing else, it's an ideal date flick.


WHAT'S BAD

The only thing that grated on my nerves was the preachy tone of some of the dialogue. On more than one occasion, the characters rant away on their philosophy of relationships. At one point, Forlani even halts all the traffic in a coffeehouse (ugh, the dreaded coffeehouse!!!) just to get up on a soapbox and lecture everyone about the irrationality of love.

I've seen two cuts of this movie, and both versions (including the one that made it to release), don't do a very good job at getting a steady rhythm going. Time seems to jump, then crawl, then jump again erratically as the movie hops to different points of the relationship between Prinze and Forlani. This is particularly bothersome in the first half, when the scenes are somewhat repetitious (boy meets girl, boy gets annoyed by girl, boy walks away, fast forward a few years).


Rating: 7 out of 10 (0=Abysmal, 5=Average, 10=Excellent)
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