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Thursday
Feb242011

You Again (2010)

Familiarity Breeds Apathy

Is You Again the first meta-titled chick flick?  I imagine the movie as a sad-sack neighbor, knocking on my door at six-thirty in the evening; she’s soaked from rain and tears of loneliness.  She hates to bore me, she says, but could we just talk for a couple hours about why no one likes her?  And that’s when I think, “You again?”

Some might take offense at my use of the term “chick flick”, but there’s no other way to describe this movie.  It’s a generic celebration-of-women comedy where men are objects to be fawned over, snuggled up to, or playfully mocked for their cluelessness—and there’s nothing wrong with that, on its face.  The problem is that You Again, like so many of its contemporaries, has little respect for its female characters (or its target audience) that it ends up alienating everyone.

Kristen Bell stars as Marni, an attractive, mid-twenties PR agent who comes home for a long weekend to see her brother, Will (James Wolk), get married.  She soon discovers that the bride-to-be is Joanna (Odette Yustman), the cruel cheerleader who tormented Marni in high school—back when Marni was a frumpy nerd with big glasses and a constellation complexion.  Marni’s mom, Gail (Jamie Lee Curtis), wonders why her daughter acts so insecure around her son’s lovely, poised fiancée, until Joanna’s aunt Ramona (Sigourney Weaver) shows up and turns out to be Gail’s old high school rival, too.

As you can imagine, You Again spins out into one of those Wacky Weekend comedies where, by the end, one or more cast members will have an allergic reaction to something; wind up in a cast; break a bathroom appliance and get soaked; cause a major structure to collapse comically (meaning, impossibly, that no one gets hurt); and generally be exhausted from lots and lots of dancing.  You Again literally offers nothing new, except the opportunity to play fun mental games during endless Threes-Company-like misunderstandings (such as realizing that Weaver and Curtis began their careers as pioneers of sci-fi and horror, respectively, and that Yustman and Bell have paid their dues in genre filmmaking, too; how much more fun would this hour-and-forty-five minutes have been as a roundtable moderated by Chris Hardwick?).

All that said, You Again is comfier than a lot of similar-themed dreck I’ve had to wade through.  The PG blandness means that I can sit back and enjoy the family’s enthusiastic wedding-dance-rehearsal scene, hosted by Kristin Chenoweth, and get a little misty eyed during the mom-and-daughter heart-to-heart about forgiveness (by the third one, though, my eyes were sufficiently dry and I was ready to go to bed).  The movie has a heart, and director Andy Fickman knows how to let it shine; he directed the equally harmless and uninteresting She’s the Man and Race to Witch Mountain (along with The Game Plan, which I haven’t seen—and which, I guess, helped solidify Fickman’s relationship with Dwayne Johnson, whose surprise cameo gives You Again its one moment of transcendent buoyancy).

I’m grateful that Fickman and screenwriter Moe Jelline didn’t go the toilet humor route; not that I have a problem with well-crafted sexual innuendo or watching people peel feces out of their eyes, but it’s just so expected in movies like this.  They allowed me to relax and enjoy their knockout cast’s talents, which elevated the D-sitcom material to something at least warm and watchable (speaking of D-sitcoms, Patrick Duffy’s cameo helped me scratch a name off my “Isn’t He Dead?” list).

Let’s detour for a moment to talk about Kristen Bell.  Does anyone know her?  Can we put an intervention together?  Maybe Patrick Duffy could lead it.  Seriously, she’s on her way to becoming this generation’s Jennifer Aniston; Bell’s work on the TV show Veronica Mars was inspired, but since it went off the air, her most notable acting work has been as narrator on Gossip Girl.  The rest have been big-screen flops like Pulse, When in Rome, and now this—none of which do her genuine charms and comedic and dramatic abilities any good.  Perhaps the answer is to get her and Aniston to do a movie together; a crime thriller, perhaps, or the recently shelved Alien prequel—anything but what they’d likely be offered: An assembly-line rom-com about two career-driven women who can’t unwind without the lout-y wiles of either Gerard Butler or Josh Duhamel; it would be called (Sigh) Men! (Sigh), and make a hundred million dollars.

I laughed a little at You Again, which is the starting point of any successful comedy; but I was troubled by my inability to pinpoint who the movie was made for.  Is it a gateway drug for twelve-year-old girls, selling them a Happily Ever After fantasy and preparing them for a long life of man-scripted entertainment that talks down to them?  Or was this more like an Ocean’s Eleven scenario, where Sigourney Weaver got a few fun-filled, paid weeks of easy cattiness before doing pick-up work on Avatar?  Whatever the case, I’m not glad I saw You Again, but I’m not not glad I saw it, either.

Bringing my strained neighbor analogy full-circle, after our evening of her crying it out and my discreetly looking at my watch wraps up, I show You Again to the door and tell her that everything will be okay.  Maybe she should check out some young stand-up comics or improv troupes, I say; have a good laugh and realize that it’s never too late to become interesting and original.  I tell her the key to getting people to like you is to be yourself, but to make sure that “you” are someone people will want to spend time with.

She shoots me a confused look and mumbles something about ice cream and When Harry Met Sally before half-heartedly thanking me for my time.  I know I’ll see her again, sooner than I care to; maybe she’ll do something different with her hair or try out some hipster knock-knock jokes she found on-line.  But it’s not in her nature to change, and I’m the sucker who keeps letting her in.