Being a product of the '80s and '90s, I've seen a whole lot of teen comedies – enough that I consider them a personal guilty pleasure. 'Better Off Dead,' 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off' and 'Say Anything' are some of the best of the '80s, but the ones that were actually released during my later teenage years were 'Can't Hardly Wait,' ''10 Things I Hate About You' and 'She's All That.' For better or worse, whenever a new one hit the big screen, I was there – but for some reason I didn't ever see 'Never Been Kissed.' Having seen it now that it's on Blu-ray, I realized that I wasn't missing out on much.
At the time, Drew Barrymore was in a whirlwind of success. 'The Wedding Singer' was highly popular and the 'Charlie's Angels' movies were just around the corner. Barrymore drives the vehicle as Josie, a twenty-something copy editor for the Chicago Sun-Times with an overly romantic mindset. She speaks passionately about everything that she loves – from the romantic relationship that she's never had to her aspiring career as a full-fledged journalist.
Without any notice, her zany editor-in-chief randomly assigns her an extensive undercover assignment. She's initially so excited to be given a major writing assignment that she completely forgets the negative drawback to it – she has to return to high school. As if it's not bad enough seeing actors in their 20s parading around as teenagers in these types of movies, 'Never Been Kissed' writes one into the story and expects its characters to actually fall for the charade too.
Teased and bullied, Josie was given the nickname Josie Grossy during her first bout with high school. With braces, glasses, and a super awkward personality, she was picked-on relentlessly – which makes this assignment a psychological nightmare. Her first day of school is reminiscent to that of 'Billy Madison' – she shows up in outdated garb with a mindset that would have been deemed cool in early part of the decade, but is nothing but nerdy in the late '90s. It doesn't take long for her to become cannon fodder for the cool kids on campus (which includes very young actors James Franco, Jessica Alba, Marley Shelton, and Jordan Ladd), so she has to tack along with the social rejects (including a young Leelee Sobrieski).
When a competing paper breaks a story about the same popular kids who tear her down, Josie's editor-in-chief tells her that if she can't crack into the same uptight group, then he'll fire her and her boss (John C. Reilly). From here, the movie veers in the direction of 'Mean Girls.' Josie ditches her nerd friends and breaks into the cool group with the help of her brother (David Arquette), who also poses as a high school student.
Although I hadn't seen 'Never Been Kissed' until now, I know lots of people who have watched it over the last 12 years. The one word that everyone use to describe the movie with was "awkward." Having seen it now, I agree that "awkward" perfectly describes it – but not for the same reasons they use it. You see, Josie is pretending to be a teen and she starts falling for a young theater teacher. Considering they're both consenting adults, that's just fine – only he doesn't know it, so it's a bit alarming. Talk about awkward, we see this guy ditch his girlfriend at a carnival to hang out with a girl he believes is an underage student – and this is the relationship that we're supposed to root for in the movie. Only making matters worse is that fact that David Arquette starts dating an underage student too. I don't care which of the 50 states you live in – that's shady.
Many teen movies are formulaic, but the good ones have something new to bring to the table. They may end up in the same place, but they get there by taking a playful and undiscovered route. 'Never Been Kissed' goes down that same old familiar road, never giving it a unique spin. The final product feels like a studio's attempt at catching up with the success of other studios by fast-tracking a generic teen comedy with a rising star – something I can't vouch for and, frankly, don't want to watch again.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
20th Century Fox has placed 'Never Been Kissed' on a Region A BD-50 in an eco-friendly blue keepcase. Other than a firmware disclaimer, a Fox vanity reel and an FBI warning, nothing plays before the main menu – not a single trailer, advertisement or promotional video. If you're as much of a fan of the 'Fight Club' Blu-ray as I am, you'll be disappointed that the flowery faux 'Never Been Kissed' main menu that appears at the beginning of the 'Fight Club' disc is nothing like the menu that Fox uses on the real Blu-ray. Had it been, I would have given this disc another star or two.
The 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer that Fox has given 'Never Been Kissed' is all over the place with inconsistencies. It begins with a colorful, bright and sharp image that has been completely scrubbed of dirt and grime. Initially, it appears to be a strong transfer, but the deeper you get into the film the more you'll notice how these factors constantly vary.
For the 50 percent of the transfer that's strong and highly detailed, there's another 50 percent that's flawed. Details are stripped by DNR, specks of dirt and grime appear in waves, an overall haze floods in and mutes the screen's clarity, sharpness and colors. Blacks become over-saturated detail-chomping masses. Slightly flickering noise shows up here and there.
Although the video quality isn't the greatest, at least it's better than screenshots of the DVD. Aliasing, banding, artifacts, and edge enhancement are all absent on this Blu-ray release.
'Never Been Kissed' gives the option of listening to the movie's audio track in over ten lossy languages, but English is the only one that receives 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.
Much like the video quality, the audio starts off very strong during the movie's opening. Little to no money was put into acquiring iconic '90s hits, so most of the poppy songs that appear in the film are generic sounding selections – all of which are the only things to make use of all the channels. Surround channels are occasionally used for effects, the rear channels even less, so the only times that all are actively and simultaneously engaged is when music is filling them.
The vocal track is well-mixed with effects and music, not a line is lost. The bass levels are decent and the track is void of any crackles or pops – but the overall feel of the audio comes from the front. There isn't a single instance where imaging is used. Not a single sound flows from channel to channel, making this a lackluster lossless audio track.
Coming from someone with a soft spot for cheesy, sappy and silly '80s and '90s teen comedies, I can't vouch for 'Never Been Kissed.' Not only does it never break away from the formula, but it doesn't do anything you haven't seen done better in teen comedies before or since. Nothing in the film is memorable, but there's got to be an audience who loves it or it wouldn't have seen the Blu light of day. Said audience must be small, deeming it unworthy by the studio of spending the money to give it strong video and audio transfers. Instead, the technical presentation is erratic. Considering the only special feature is a standard-def trailer for the same movie, there sure isn't much here to entice anyone who didn't like, doesn't like, or hasn't seen 'Never Been Kissed.' For fans only.