Guilty pleasure alert! Guilty pleasure alert!
I wish I could say "I don't know why I like 'She's All That,' I really don't," but then I'd be lying. My man card has been revoked so many times due to silly films like this or 'Straight Talk' that it may get thrown in the shredder if I get near anything starring Meg Ryan, but honestly, it doesn't bother me. As much as I love revolting shock cinema, as much as I giggle with glee at every new Jean-Claude Van Damme flick, or as eager I am for each and every new entry in the Michel Gondry filmography, there's a big part of me that likes a cliche riddled rom-com if it's done right.
'She's All That' isn't a bad film by any means, even if it has some very bad moments. If anything, it may be symbolic of the state of the genre in the late '90s, as it has all the staples, and crafts a fairly memorable story out of recycled parts (and in the case of Freddie Prinze Jr., glaringly absent parts) and comic tropes. I will probably go to my grave defending this film, despite all its flaws, weaknesses, and shortcomings, as I've always felt it was a little more honest, and much, much less cutesy than its peers...and who the hell am I kidding, I'm a sucker for Rachael Leigh Cook.
Tale as old as time...High school president and most popular fella (Prinze Jr.) gets dumped by popular "it" girl (Jodi Lyn O'Keefe) for a 'MTV's Real World' star (Matthew Lillard), makes bet with guy who's going to be in 'The Fast and the Furious' films (Paul Walker) about making any other girl prom queen. When the most pathetic girl in school (Cook) is chosen, a quick sprucing up turns the seemingly unworkable project into a "DAAAAMMMMNNN," and feelings emerge. Bet is revealed, guy has to make it all right. The end.
See, there's really no reason I should like this film when the best way to sum it up is with snark. Throw in the fact that there's a horrendous performance by rapper Usher, virtually no teachers or parents present (aside from the two line parents of Prinze Jr., only one has an actual part, with Kevin Pollak providing some timely laughs)and distractingly bad "younger" actors (like Anna Paquin in her awkward stage, or the dreadful Kieran Culkin), alongside some very unbelievable moments (particularly the ending, which couldn't happen in a million years) and more predictability than a Shakespeare adaptation, and normally the recipe for disaster should be there. Heck, I could dedicate a paragraph alone to Prinze Jr.'s lack of talent, charisma, or likability, in a performance that has more ham than Porky Pig's ass, but it's best to ignore him and hope he goes away.
What drives 'She's All That' is the likability Cook brings to the table, her fine performance, and the fact that her character is definitely one we all can recognize. Yes, she's the prototypical Hollywood "ugly girl" in this flick, as a simple tweeze and a pair of contacts change her life prospects around in no time flat, but there's a charm to her character, to the way it is written and performed, that outdoes all the failings in the film. There's the memorability, like the staircase scene (you know the one...) and it's silly end, or the fact that she doesn't fall head over heels for the popular guy and actually questions his every move, with a level of cynicism that is fitting for the role. There's the fact that she's not your typical looking actress, and while she looks a few years past high school believability (as if Prinze Jr. or Walker didn't look like they were ten year college alums...), she's still quite the adorable young lady who is easy on the eyes and perfectly soft in voice.
Sure, the amount of shots that make stunt or performing doubles blatantly obvious is insane. Sure, the prom and its "flash mob" is about as real as believing anyone could love Lillard's character in any way, shape, or form. It doesn't matter. This is the kind of film that would make me stop channel surfing each and every time...if I watched television all that much, that is. 'She's All That' is a very fun, silly, enjoyable teen romp, one that struck home so well that it was the basis for its own parody flick, featuring the majority of the characters and more than a few of the scenes. There are many, many worse ways to spend an hour and a half. This won't go down in history as anything special, but this is one film I can't turn away from. It's bad, but at the same time, it's pretty good.
The Disc: Vital Stats
Lionsgate brings this Miramax title to Blu-ray on a Region A locked BD25 disc, replete with the usual Lionsgate menu navigation and ten someodd minutes of pre-menu trailers.
Lionsgate may be the "superior" distributor of the Miramax titles being dumped on Blu-ray, but even they have released some awful discs. It saddens me to say that 'She's All That' is just another "dump title," one that looks atrocious, like it's from a bad movie channel master or remastered from a VHS cassette. This disc arrives on Blu-ray with no fanfare, is a niche title, and has a low, low MSRP, so it's no surprise there isn't any remastering or "sprucing up" for this release.
'She's All That' is one of the foggiest looking discs on the market, regardless of the year of release. From the moment it starts you have to wonder, where is the detail? Where's the clarity? Sharpness? It's a damned mess. Facial features are a blur throughout the entire film, and it ain't from DNR, no sir. Colors are either dull and lifeless or oversaturated and ugly as sin. The picture is routinely flat...and speaking of flat, contrast levels are among the worst I've seen on Blu-ray this year. There's some minor dirt, which isn't a big deal, but some crush issues, blown out whites, indistinct hair, and the occasional exaggerated edge make this one a true Blu-ray stinker. I'd expect this disc from Mill Creek, or dare I say, Echo Bridge. It's releases like this or '40 Days and 40 Nights' that make me nervous about any title coming out from the Miramax library, regardless of who distributes it.
You know what else isn't "all that?" The audio for 'She's All That.' It's actually one of the least balanced discs of the year. The opening soundtrack elements don't register in every channel, and while later songs do, they're the only things to hit the rears, light as they are. There's no ambience or activity to be found whatsoever to make a crowded scene feel like it looks in this front heavy affair, but that's not a horrendous deal, considering that was somewhat common for the genre and era. What is a problem, though, is the random lightness in dialogue that makes some lines borderline impossible to understand, while a few scenes have random ass noise that drowns out other words. Dynamics are a nightmare, with dialogue that's randomly sharp then flat, often hollow, never matching the environment it is supposedly being spoken in. This just isn't a pleasant sounding disc.
'She's All That' is a guilty pleasure of mine. Compared to many of its peers, it may be the pretty girl, whose charm and dignity is buried beneath layers and layers of ugliness, just waiting to find the right viewer to connect with. It's a teen movie that has its little bits of cruelty, but also a sweetness that's impossible to ignore. Sadly, Lionsgate's Blu-ray release of this film is all sorts of ugly. It looks atrocious, and it doesn't sound any better. The extras are a mess, too. As much as it pains me to say it, I'd recommend skipping this disc, and putting said money towards one of the better Lionsgate Miramax drops, especially as the award winner waves sprinkle into stores.