Since Twelfth Night is coming up, I’m going to review a blast from the past, the Amanda Bynes teen comedy remake of Twelfth Night called “She’s The Man”.
Some of you might remember that the late 90s and early 2000s were the heyday of Hollywood remakes of Shakespeare: Romeo + Juliet directed by Baz Luhrman, 10 Things I Hate About You, (The Taming Of the Shrew) “O” (Othello), and even “Get Over It” (“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”). Shakespeare was actually hot for a few years and many writers were riding his doublet.
Sadly, not all Shakespeare remakes are created equal. Most of them were created with care to try and either show love for the text (as in Romeo and ‘O’) or to improve or contemporize the text like in ‘O‘ and “10 Things I Hate About You,” (which interestingly, both starred Julia Styles). “She’s The Man” doesn’t feel like a faithful retelling of “Twelfth NIght” despite the fact that it keeps most of the characters and the central conceit of the story- a girl disguising herself as her twin brother, going to a new place called Ilyria and inspiring love in both a powerful man and a beautiful woman.
- Amanda Bynes as Sebastian is a characature of 90’s bro culture and rarely ever plays her male role straight or convincingly. Nobody would be fooled into thinking this girl is a boy.
- Bynes’ Viola rarely challenges anything or does a good job playing soccer until the end of the movie. Her main reason for her masquerade is that her brother forced to do it, so he can run away to become a musician.
- I also don’t like that Sebastian never seems to impress or endeer the coach. If her goal was to prove that girls are just as good as guys, he should be her focus, but they rarely evershare the screen.
- This Viola also never challengers Duke (her love interest played by Channing Tatum). One of the best parts of Shakespeare’s version is that Duke Orsino is a mopey would-be incel who puts women on a pedestal one minute, and condemns them the next. One of the best things about his relationship with Viola is that it makes him better able to appreciate women, but his counterpart in She’s All That has no such epithany.
- I do want to give a shoutout to Laura Ramsey as Olivia . She frankly is a better actress then Bynes and plays Olivia’s unrequited love for Viola very well. Initially, she gets a copy of Sebastian’s song lyrics and she’s smitten by Sebastian’s words, rather than his looks. This makes you hope the real Sebastian will return.
- Below is a montage of the jokes in the film. I hope you notice that most of them are very lowbrow and pretty cliche, even for teen movies. At 5:20 is the only really good part of the movie- it explains why Olivia’s love for Viola is funny and tragic. Guys are taught never to open up to women, but women want emotional connections. Men are taught women aren’t equal, but women yearn for acceptance. Viola in disguise has no concept of these unspoken ‘rules’ of male behavior, so she seems like the perfect man to Olivia- someone who treats her like an equal, isn’t afraid to open up, and is also male. The fact that she’s actually developing feelings for a woman is what makes it funny and tragic.
In conclusion, I’m kind of glad this Shakespeare rom-com is slinking into obscurity since it adds nothing and waters down the original to oceanic degrees. Frankly, I think there was a much better adaptation of Twelfth Night that, although it changed the names, location, and text, was a more thought-provoking and insightful rendition of the story- the 1996 animated film, Mulan.