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STO Soccer Film Review: She’s The Man

William Shakespeare has been dead for 392 years, but that pesky fact hasn’t stopped the Bard from becoming a Hollywood screenwriter. Though he’s been residing six feet under the floor of a Stratford-upon-Avon church for nearly four centuries, Shakespeare is still one of the most prolific writers of our day.

Or at least it seems that way.

After all, almost every film we go to see at theaters today has themes that can be traced to his work. Sometimes, the movies we see are just flat out ripoffs of his stories and characters. Occasionally, the producers actually still credit Shakespeare, even though their film is a bastardization of his original product. If he were alive today, I think the Bard would be outraged. Well, probably not so long as he got his royalties.

Lately, Hollywood moguls have decided that they could adapt the Bard’s plays to make a tidy profit from the “tween audience” (i.e. boys and girls who are too old to sit at home and play with toys like kids, but too young to drive, drink and engage in scandalous teen behavior). Tweens’ parents don’t want to have to listen to their incessant whining on weekends, so often these 10-15 year olds get dumped at the cineplex on Friday and Saturday nights, which makes them one of the most powerful film audiences.

Now, tweens hate Shakespeare. They won’t read it, that’s for sure (though they probably will skim the Cliff’s Notes). So, the Hollywood moguls have to put Shakespeare’s words into a more palatable, easy-to-digest form. So, they “loosely” adapt a Shakespeare play (and by “loosely”, I mean they change it so much you wouldn’t even recognize it as Shakespeare if they didn’t give the Bard a writing credit), throw some cute girls and some heartthrobs in it and, voila, they’re making money hand over fist.

Recent examples of this method include: Ten Things I Hate About You (an unrecognizable version of The Taming of the Shrew), Get Over It (a miserable homage to A Midsummer Nights Dream), and O (a thickly veiled Othello). These movies are not just bad because they lack creativity, but rather because they claim to be related to the Bard’s work, yet his wit and imagination are completely absent. West Side Story got it right. These tween films are getting it wrong over and over again.

But this is a soccer film review right? What’s with all this talk about Bill Shakespeare?

Well, She’s the Man, a 2006 soccer film released by Dreamworks, is one such “loose adaptation” of a Shakespeare play. Director Andy Fickman took Shakespeare’s classic gender-bender Twelfth Night and threw some high school soccer and politics into it for good measure (by measure). What was the result?

A movie that I wanted to hate really badly, but almost enjoyed. I wouldn’t say “I liked it”, but I will say “It didn’t make me want to gouge my eyes out.” I’m glad I didn’t mutilate myself either as I watched the film on an overseas flight and the guy in the seat next to me probably would have yakked all over his tray table.

“Teen Queen” Amanda Bynes really carries the film as Viola/Sebastian (I’ll explain in a second). I like Bynes, but I must admit that she is not a talented actress. She is successful at what she does though, which is play the “kind of dorky, kind of hot” girl who has become the archetypical heroine for the tween generation. The tween girls want to be friends with her and the tween guys want to date her. She’s like a mini-Meg Ryan. A brilliant thespian? No. A crowd pleaser, for sure. She’s got some comedy chops, but let’s just not let her be in anything that requires depth of emotion, please.

Anyways, here is the synopsis:

Viola (Bynes) is upset that her H.S. girls soccer team has been disbanded. Her brother Sebastian is supposed to go to a new school with a talented boys team. But Sebastian has dreams of rock superstardom, so he goes to London to play with his band. Viola decides to dress as a boy, assume Sebastian’s place at the new school and try to make the boys team.

When she arrives, Viola is put in a dorm with Duke (Channing Tatum), the soccer team’s star striker. Duke teaches Viola (who he thinks is a boy) to be a better soccer player in exchange for Viola helping Duke get together with a girl he likes.

Predictably, Viola starts having feelings for Duke. Even more predictably, the girl who Duke likes develops a crush on Viola as “Sebastian”. The plot gets super complicated after the real Sebastian returns to school, but to make a long story short, Viola winds up revealing her true identity to her team and scoring the goal to win the big game. Duke is pissed at her deception, but he forgives her, they kiss and all’s well (that ends well).

So, it’s Ladybugs backwards, basically. Only Dangerfield didn’t drag (pun intended) the Bard into the mix.

All in all, She’s the Man is obviously not Twelfth Night. The soccer scenes are poorly shot. It’s the classic tactic of only shooting feet, and then showing the actor’s face. Bynes can’t dribble like that. We know that and it’s OK. No one who went to see this movie was upset about the cinematography. That would be like going to see a Dane Cook movie and being upset because it wasn’t funny. You knew what you were getting when you bought your ticket, pal. But as these tween Shakespearean adaptations go, She’s the Man is the Hamlet of hack jobs. 

Bill Shakespeare probably wouldn’t like it. But I’m betting he’d like Bynes. Well, maybe not actually.