Monday, February 23, 2009

Never Been Kissed (1999)

“That thing, that moment, when you kiss someone and everything around you becomes hazy and the only thing in focus is you and this person. And you realize that that person is the only person that you’re supposed to kiss for the rest of your life. And for one moment you get this amazing gift and you want to laugh and you want to cry, because you’re so happy you’ve found it, and so scared that it’ll go away all at the same time.”
-Josie Geller

Title: Never Been Kissed
Genre: Romance Comedy
Year: 1999
Rated: PG-13
Drew Barrymore as Josie Geller
Michael Vartan as Sam Coulson
David Arquette as Rob Geller
John C. Reilly as Gus
Plot: A nerdy, 25-year-old copy editor enrolls in a high school to write an expose on teenage life and ends up falling in love with her English teacher.

Tagline: The class geek just went chic.

First Viewing: 6th Grade (2000) at my best friend Ashley’s house.
Added to The List: Always been there.
I’ll never forget the first time I watched Never Been Kissed. I felt I related to the heroine on so many levels. After all, I had been stuck in Unrequited Loveville since first grade and I had yet to experience that joyous event that would allow me to cross the threshold into womanhood. It seemed like it would never come, and therefore, in Josie Geller, I found a friend with a shared experience. I was eleven.

It’s rather ridiculous for me to look back on those days at this ripe old age of 20. At that time my greatest fear was never being kissed. But for me (and I know for others), this movie provided a buffer. 25 became the cutoff. If I hadn’t been kissed by then, well…I would officially become freakish. I imagine The 40-Year-Old Virgin does the same thing for the sexually inexperienced.

Never Been Kissed was my favorite romance comedy for years. And, no it didn’t get bumped off because I was finally kissed. It still manages to touch me today, even if that experience has passed me by. There are, amazingly enough, many facets to this film other then rounding first base. Identity. Disguise. Second chances. Social standing…ahhh, so much.

Unlike The 40-Year-Old Virgin, whose main conflict is getting Andy laid, this movie’s conflict involves Josie Geller’s undercover work at a high school. She is (apparently) the youngest looking person working at the Chicago Sun Times and is sent on the mission by the editor. Her boss, slutty best friend, and lazy brother all think it’s a terrible idea. But Josie is determined to be a reporter, even if it means going back to a time that was a living hell for her. Contrived? Certainly.

Josie tries to settle into her stereotypically suburban high school. Immediately, the popular kids reject her and torment her. However, just as easily as she was rebuffed by the in-crowd, the nerds happily adopt her into their group. Josie is back in high school in nearly every way, including being smitten with the big man on campus, Guy.

However, Josie’s boss is not pleased with her story ideas, so he makes her wear a hidden camera so he can scan her tapes and find a suitable story. He also insists that she weasel her way into the popular crowd because that’s where the stories are. When that fails, Josie’s brother Rob, also enrolls at the high school, becomes popular in a day, spreads glowing rumors about Josie which immediately lifts her out of the nerds and into the popular group.

All this while, Josie has been falling for her English teacher, Sam Coulson. And he, at times, seems to reciprocate. This brings up the most controversial part of this film. Many viewers find Josie and Sam’s relationship to be entirely inappropriate because he believes her to be 17 instead of 25 and he “abuses” his authority as her teacher/mentor.

Personally, all this doesn’t bother me. Maybe it’s because I know she’s 25. Maybe it’s because I was underage at my first viewing and didn’t think it was such a travesty. Meh…still doesn’t bother me, but for those of you squeamish viewers out there, heads up.

Interspersed throughout the movie are Josie’s painfully embarrassing flashbacks to high school. Hygienically challenged and socially awkward, we first meet Josie while reading a poem to her not-so-secret object of affection, Billy Prince. Soon after, the impossible happens when Billy asks her to the prom. But as Josie is awaiting his arrival in her hideously metallic pink dress, Billy drives up in a limousine, with his stereotypically sexy date and throws an egg in her face.

With Josie’s nerd friends giving her the cold shoulder, she becomes enveloped in the popular group. Even Guy starts to warm to her and asks her to prom. Josie’s popularity has grown so much, she is even crowned prom queen. While dancing with Sam, she is about to confess her love and true identity when she spots Guy playing a cruel trick on her best nerd friend. The truth comes out. Sam rejects her, believing that she meant to entrap him in some sort of sex scandal. Josie is left rejected and without a story.

…or so it would seem.

Josie takes everything she has learned and presents it in a feature article. It explains her lack of romantic history and how she finally came to grips with her past and its repercussions. She admits to never being kissed and asks that certain person who was “hurt on her road to self discovery” to forgive her and kiss her on the pitcher’s mound at the baseball state championship, five minutes prior to the first pitch.

The article is extremely popular and draws a huge crowd. Josie stands on the pitcher’s mound, patiently waiting for forgiveness. The five minutes pass and Josie accepts that Sam’s not coming. But, in true rom-com fashion, he shows up just in the nick of time, before all her hope is forever lost and gives her the perfect first kiss.

I admire Josie for putting her ass on the line. In a way, she humiliated Sam by making him think he was a perv out to score some high school poon. By admitting her stunted sexual maturity, leaving her pride in his hands, and allowing gads of people to witness such a personal a private moment, I think she more than makes up for her deception.

I love Never Been Kissed because it shows that high school can still effect you after years have passed. Sure, most have forgotten and moved on. Many don’t remember certain conversations or events because they have been replaced with new ones. But some, like yours truly, remember everything and need some kind of closure or retribution.

It also addresses the importance of the first kiss to women. Certainly most women get their’s in their elementary/junior high years. But even if it’s on a pitcher’s mound, surrounded by hundreds of cheering supporters or in a smelly, janitor’s closet like…ahem…some people, it will never be forgotten.

Favorite Screencap

Josie's devastation...and awesome shoes.
Next Film: Titanic

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Great Mouse Detective (1986)

“There’s always a chance, as long as one can still think.”
-Basil of Baker Street

Title: The Great Mouse Detective
Genre: Disney (Yes, Disney is its own genre)
Year: 1986
Rated: G

Barrie Ingham as Basil of Baker Street
Val Bettin as Dr. David Q. Dawson
Vincent Price as Professor Ratigan
Susanne Pollatscheck as Olivia Flaversham

Basil, the most famous rodent detective, investigates the disappearance of a toy maker and its link to his archenemy, Professor Ratigan.
London’s crime fighting ace on his most baffling case!
First Viewing:
3rd grade (1996) at “Hook Grandma’s” house. Added to The List: Always been there.

Yes, I know it has been forever since I have written a review, so I apologize if you are one of my devoted readers, dying to know what I think about the next movie on my list,
The Great Mouse Detective. Rest easy, dear reader, for your prayers have been answered.

First and foremost, I love Disney. I just feel like it needs to be said. You can never say you love Disney enough. Specifically, I love the 47 (and counting!) Disney animated features. I own all of them on good ole’ VHS. (With the exception of
Chicken Little and Meet the Robinsons, which were released after VHS went kaput.) I have had week long marathons and ranked them arduously. You know how much I love to rank. In fact, someday in the distant future, I may re-rank and dissect the DAF’s. This may be a shocking statement, but only 5 of the 46 Disney animated features make my list.

The Great Mouse Detective is #5.

It’s kind of shocking, really. Even I am surprised at myself. Shouldn’t
Aladdin or The Lion King outrank Disney’s 1986’s moderately successful animated feature? Or what about classic fairy tales Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty? Nope. The Great Mouse Detective.

TGMD was not one of the brightly packaged Disney movies I owned during childhood. My Hook Grandma had it amongst her random pile of grandkid friendly films. It was a standard whenever I stayed the night at her house. As I look back now, I can hardly believe that I liked it all. I liked princesses. And dancing in the forest/ballroom. And huge Broadway caliber musical numbers. TGMD lacks all of these.

So what exactly do I like about it? In one word, you demand? Characters.

Basil of Baker Street is based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s immortal British detective, Sherlock Holmes. Originally, he appeared in a series of juvenile fiction novels by Eve Titus. I have read none of them and have discovered, thanks to the good people at Wikipedia, that the plot of the film is entirely unrelated to any of the books.

The story begins when a toymaker, Hiram Flaversham, is kidnapped by a peg legged bat. His daughter, Olivia, witnesses the ordeal and seeks help from Dr. David Q. Dawson (Watson’s awestruck, bumbling counterpart). The twosome then inquires about Basil, who is hot on the case of his nemesis, Professor Ratigan. Basil is reluctant to help the adorable Olivia until he learns that Ratigan’s peg legged bat was involved. He is certain that the cases are intertwined and sets out to discover the answers.
I’m not really a mystery fan. The trouble with the mystery genre is that once you know the answer, the story becomes dull. And as truly entertaining as TGMD is, the mystery isn’t that complex and becomes more and more obvious with each repeat viewing. But, like I said before, it’s not the story, it’s the characters.

Basil is arrogant, but he has the goods to back it up. How can you not like (or at least respect) someone who can figure out the location of a seedy pub from a simple piece of paper? Dawson is so bumbling and loyal and genuinely good hearted, but isn’t exactly the most helpful sidekick in the Disney canon. Still, I can’t imagine the movie without him. And then there’s little Olivia, the token child character of the film. She’s sweet, endearing and precocious, so it’s difficult to not like her (even though Basil tries his damndest). Plus she has a Scottish accent. Irresistible.
Then there’s the villains…Ratigan (voiced by Vincent Price) is a typical goatee stroking menace, intent on ruling the British rodent Empire. Fidget, his peg legged, dimwitted sidekick. And Felicia, Ratigan’s giant feline pet who eats his victims whenever he is displeased. The most interesting thing about Ratigan, is his desire to be a mouse. This arises many questions. Where is the rat population in London? Why is it so desirous to be a mouse? Are the mice like white people and the rats like black people in the 19th century? Is Ratigan half rat, half mouse? What is Ratigan’s back story? And another thing...aren't rats bigger than mice? Couldn't they take over without political schemes?
Hopefully, these are questions I will never know the answers to. Not unless Disney starts commissioning direct-to-video sequels again. [Shudder].
Like I said before, TGMD isn’t known for its songs. There are three to be exact. And my favorite is “Let Me Be Good to You” sung by Melissa Manchester. It is an entirely superfluous song that is played while Basil and Dawson are undercover at the seamy pub. While trying to find clues, a sexy mousette in a blue showgirl costume dances suggestively on stage and sings PG rated lyrics. It’s probably the most risqué scene in any Disney movie. And it’s still rated G.
The last thing I have to cover in my review is TGMD’s use of computer generated imagery. It was the first of the DAF’s to utilize this technology in a big way. (The Black Cauldron was the first to use it at all. Check out Eilonwy’s bauble. Oooh!)
But, more impressively, the gears in the final Big Ben battle were created with computer animation, allowing the characters to interact in a more complex background. And it still looks good today.
The Great Mouse Detective is my fifth favorite Disney movie for reasons that are quite enigmatic. The story is so-so, as is the music. But I love the characters. I suppose that’s all it takes sometimes.

Favorite Screencap
Smile everyone!

Next Film: Never Been Kissed