A Twelfth Night for the ninth-grade set, She’s the Man may exhibit scant originality, but at least Andy Fickman’s proto-feminist romp has the wherewithal to score some of its female empowerment action to a bubblegum pop/rock rendition of The Mary Tyler Moore Show theme song. Like Mary, Amanda Bynes’s Viola is destined to make it after all, infiltrating Illyria Prep by posing as her AWOL brother Sebastian (James Kirk) in order to join the male soccer squad and prove to her own school’s chauvinist coach and boyfriend that young women are capable of competing in a man’s world. Drag queen dilemmas and romantic entanglements soon follow, with Viola falling for hunky but sensitive roommate Duke (Channing Tatum), who in turn is in love with gorgeous Olivia (Laura Ramsey), who finds herself smitten with Sebastian/Viola, who’s also being stalked by Sebastian’s psycho ex Monique (Alex Breckenridge).
Co-scripted by the duo responsible for the Shrew-ish 10 Things I Hate About You, the film speeds through its derivative, convoluted narrative hoping that buoyant slapstick, whiplash pacing, and abundant gender-related jokes will somehow obscure the fact that the film has clunkily crossbred the Bard with Bend It Like Beckham (objectified sexpot cheerleaders included!). Surprisingly enough, it’s a strategy that occasionally works. And yet despite its giddy you-go-girl spirit, She’s the Man too frequently plays out like a broken record, its slapdash comedy mostly relegated to its undercover heroine unconsciously uttering girlie sentiments about “feelings” and then immediately retracting them with super-macho pronouncements about “tapping that ass.”
As Viola/Sebastian, the usually charming Bynes broadly mugs her way through uncomfortable situations while donning an unflattering wig and sideburns and speaking in a bizarre, semi-masculine voice that suggests Jack Black with a Southern drawl. In the end, it all becomes very Just One of the Guys, replete with Viola having to prove her XX-chromosome credentials by flashing her tits. The only difference being that unlike that seminal 1985 cross-dressing predecessor, in 2006, the sight of such self-actualizing nudity remains discreetly off-screen.