Directed by: Andy Fickman (Race to Witch Mountain)
Starring: Kristen Bell, Jamie Lee Curtis, Sigourney Weaver, Odette Yustman, Victor Garber, Betty White
The movie looked like it was going to be bad, but I was willing to give it a chance. I gave it a chance. It not only looked bad, it was bad. In fact, it may be worse than it looked. I concede that my actual moviegoing experience was not without some edification, since I now know what became of the “Oh, no!” woman on the I Love Lucy laugh track. You know who I mean—the one who anticipated every gag on the show by crying out, “Oh, no!” Well, she was sitting two rows behind me at the showing of You Again I attended. I’m only sorry that none of my friends were inclined to accompany me, and therefore were deprived of the opportunity to hear this iconic figure.
Otherwise, You Again was everything its painfully predictable previews promised—even if Betty White’s split-pea soup/Exorcist gag in the trailer didn’t make the final cut. It was just as well, because the gears turn on and on and on in this movie even trimmed down. The film’s notion of a surprise—that one of the four combatant-women characters is not who you would think—isn’t hard to figure out pretty early on. What’s left is witless dialogue, stupidly broad gags, flat direction and a resolution you knew was coming before you sat down.
The premise is workable without being in any way remarkable, original or inspired. Marni (Kristen Bell) discovers that brother Will (newcomer Jimmy Wolk) is slated to marry Joanna (Odette Yustman, The Unborn)—the mean girl who tormented her in high school—and sets out to prevent the nuptials. It’s merely an OK premise—depending, of course, on what the screenwriter does with it. Writer Moe Jelline—a man with no priors on his rap sheet—does plenty. Unfortunately, almost all of it is wrong. The tone is wrong, the characters are wrong, the structure is lumpy and, worse, it’s all vaguely unpleasant. Despite its sappy happy ending, there’s something just plain mean lurking beneath it all—and not to any detectable purpose.
I suspect the idea was that if the film had enough on-screen talent—especially from pros like Sigourney Weaver and Jamie Lee Curtis as the previous generation’s mean girl/victim team—the results would magically be better than the material. While I can’t attest to just how bad it might have been without them, I can state with conviction that it’s not any damned good with them. Yes, they have a certain on-screen chemistry, but it doesn’t really go anywhere because it hasn’t anywhere to go. It also makes the cardboard cutouts played by Kristen Bell and Odette Yustman look worse than they do. The younger duo’s sparring is simply uninteresting, and when they make nice, it topples over into unbelievable.
The inclusion of Betty White as “Grandma Bunny” was probably an insurance policy. It would have worked better had anyone bothered to write anything for her. I have no proof of this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the script read, “Betty White enters and does Betty White type things,” and left it at that. In other words, you’ve seen her do all this before and you’ve seen her do all of it better. And any of those performances would be wise to revisit as an option. This may be preferable to her Saturday Night Live gig, but I’m not vouching for that.
Bottom line: With comedic options like The Extra Man and Easy A out there right now, there’s really no point in wasting time and money on this. Rated PG for brief mild language and rude behavior.