Boys and Girls
by Jon Bastian
Prinze flat, Forlani a knockout in a movie that proves Biggs is better.
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Between the summer season of “Big Guns, No Brains” flicks and the fall season of “Big, Important Pictures with a Message,” there has to be a place for the sweet, innocuous films that provide several hours’ diversion and then waft away with no major impact. Girls, if you’re tired of all the boy flicks out there right now, drag your S.O. (or your best friend, if you’re both single) to Boys and Girls. It’s the perfect light and fluffy date movie, provided you’ve been dating long enough to start finishing each other’s sentences. Don’t be put off by the presence of several American Pie alum. This is a movie inoffensive enough for the whole family. The single instance of pandering to the gross-out set happens during the closing credits. Hustle out when they roll if you’re easily offended, but stick around if you want to see a totally hilarious, if irrelevant, scene involving Jason Biggs, a quartet of Victoria’s Secret supermodels and… well, just stick around.
It’s no big brain drain to figure out what’s going to happen to our Boys and Girls from frame one, when the adolescent versions of our heroes meet on an airplane. It’s a cute meet, the girl introducing herself by announcing that she’s just had her first period. Our unlikely (therefore destined) couple encounter again in high school and then, (surprise, surprise) they wind up both going to Berkeley. Boy, Ryan (Freddie Prinze, Jr.), and Girl, Jennifer (Claire Forlani), are still as opposite as ever. In fact, he’s the one who believes in love before sex and she’s the one who runs away from commitment. In movie terms, this means, of course, that the two of them are made for each other, but we have to wait a good ninety minutes before the inevitable happens.
Our leads are abetted by their respective roommates, two big ol’ bundles of walking neuroses. Ryan’s prize in the roommate lottery is Hunter (Jason Biggs), a compulsive liar of ever-changing hair color who doesn’t know himself well enough to be himself. Meanwhile, Jennifer’s rommmate, Amy, (Amanda Detmer) sees her therapist more than she sees other people and lives her life in an almost creepily vicarious way through Jennifer. Now, Jason Biggs would be interesting just sitting at a bus stop and Amanda Detmer not only bears an uncanny resemblance to Natasha Lyonne (The Slums of Beverly Hills) but has ten times that actress’s jittery energy, elevating her scenes into subdued high comedy.
As for Claire Forlani, she is dynamite onscreen, coming across as a successful genetic experiment involving DNA from Michelle Pfeiffer and Sandra Bullock, crossed with a dash of Katharine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby. When our comedy sidekicks aren’t onscreen, Forlani (can you say “mega star in the making?”) carries the film… which brings up the one main problem.
Freddie Prinze, Jr. has all the charisma of wet cardboard. Granted, Ryan is supposed to be a repressed engineering major and he even wears (gasp!) big glasses early on to emphasize the point. But, Prinze’s character never manages to pull the big ol’ stick out of his ass, defeating the entire purpose. Jennifer is supposed to fall madly in love with Ryan, but the Ryan Prinze gives us isn’t loveable. Why she doesn’t dance off with Biggs’s Hunter at the first opportunity is a mystery. Memo to the producers: never cast a comic relief sidekick who is far better looking and has more presence than your lead if you’re trying to make a romantic comedy
For what it is, Boys and Girls is mildly amusing and has some insightful observations about the games played by same. By reversing the usual gender roles, the film seems to have set out to skewer the guys. On the surface, Hunter is the proof of this thesis. A guy who describes himself, accurately, as yummy should be able to get a date at the drop of a hat, but because he pretends to be who he isn’t for the sake of the booty hunt, women avoid him like the plague. When he’s finally just himself, he gets the goodies. However, again, because Prinze’s character comes off as way too needy and whiny, the backhanded compliment ultimately goes to the men, whether the filmmakers intended it that way or not.
On the plus side, there are two cities in the world where you cannot shoot an un-pretty movie: Venice, Italy and, here, San Francisco, California. Sure, we spend most of the time across the Bay at Berkeley, but the flavor of the City infuses every moment and the campus on which most of the story unfolds is as pretty as Biggs and Forlani. Of course, the inevitable San Francisco geography bugaboo strikes again — unless anyone can explain to me why someone going from Berkeley to the airport would decide to take a thirty mile detour up through Marin and back down the always traffic clogged Golden Gate bridge, besides “because the plot demanded it.”
If you’re stuck for a movie to see while you’re waiting for the next summer blockbuster, or you need a little Jason Biggs fix before The Loser opens or you’d like to see a film in which the female lead carries the show, you could do a lot worse than Boys and Girls. The story may be light, but there are some fun moments. Besides the already noted performances, there’s a wonderfully choreographed dance sequence in a club that turns into a foam party, Hunter’s increasingly outrageous tall tales and a tone that, overall, is more sweet than tart. Boys and Girls may be nothing but popcorn, but at least it’s a big buttery bucket for the heart and not the crotch. Maybe, during the mindless months of summer, there’s nothing more you should ask of a film.
Jon Bastian is a native and resident of Los Angeles and is a playwright and screenwriter who works in the TV trade to keep his dog rolling in kibble.
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