September 24, 2010

You Again

Who's up for yogurt for dessert?

Grade: D

Director: Andy Fickman

Starring: Kristen Bell, Jamie Lee Curtis, Sigourney Weaver, Odette Yustman, and Betty White

MPAA Rating: PG

Running Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Combining the tedium of a class reunion with the annoyance of a wedding rehearsal weekend, You Again is a redundant, single-cell comedy that is as irksome as it is idiotic. It is another in the increasingly long line of would-be laughers that rely on shrewish women embarrassing themselves while their level-headed, bemused men look on from the sidelines. In other words, they are high-gloss cat fights, except that in the end, there aren’t any winners, least of all the ticket-buying bystanders.

After escaping her awkward high school years, Marni (Kristen Bell) transforms from an ugly duckling to a spunky swan working at a Los Angeles PR firm. When she finally returns home for her brother’s upcoming wedding, she discovers that his fiancĂ©e is also her erstwhile high school tormenter, pretty/mean girl Joanna (Odette Yustman).

By happenstance (a key commodity in this clunker), Marni’s mom, Gail (Jamie Lee Curtis), was best friends-turned-bitter rivals with Joanna’s Aunt Ramona (Sigourney Weaver), a wealthy hotel heiress who spends most of the film twirling about and muttering French catch phrases, all the more to appear cultured, my dear.

Within a half hour, You Again shoots itself in the foot with its outlandishness: We’re to believe that Marni got all the way to the eve of her big brother’s nuptials without realizing his bride was her childhood nemesis, or that Gail has embraced Joanna as an almost adopted daughter without knowing that she’s related to Gail’s former gal pal.

The village idiots populating this milieu are a maddening lot of lobotomy patients who vacillate wildly from merely passive aggressive to full-blown psychotic. No wonder they intermarry – who else would have them? Schlocky slapstick and half-baked gags are the order of the day, as the plot-by-numbers cannot decide on a true villain until dinner plates and hors d'oeuvres starting flying. Predictably, everyone eventually comes together in time for that most well-worn finale…wait for it…a wedding reception dance. Inside a hospital. With Hall & Oates as the entertainment. Don’t ask.

Still, it’s difficult to accurately assign blame for this debacle. Poor Kristen Bell is slowly being typecast in vapid comedies. Curtis and Weaver hardly have their pick of choice roles anymore (at least, in Weaver’s case, until James Cameron makes another movie). And Betty White – who plays Marni’s sassy grandma (natch) – is just now reaching the saturation point of her recent geriatric renaissance.

Director Andy Fickman – who previously inflicted She’s the Man, The Game Plan, and the Race to Witch Mountain on the movie-going public – is obviously incapable of better. At least he scored Dwayne Johnson (who Fickman has directed twice previously) for an amusing cameo. Same goes for Patrick Duffy and Cloris Leachman, who show up briefly near film’s end. Fittingly, that’s the only way to stomach You Again – in small doses.

Neil Morris

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