from Hunter Leath
Sometimes I can’t help but look at my hobbies and ask myself one question: What am I doing with my life? This is no such exception. While at home for winter break, I have misused my copious spare time by staying up until the wee hours of the night talking, watching TV and movies, playing board games, and just plain sitting in silence. I then sleep the good hours of the morning away because I stayed up to late, can’t fall asleep that night because I woke up late, and fall into a vicious cycle of late nights of keeping myself busy with inane tasks. Tonight, I am tackling a serious issue that affects millions of Americans each day and is worthy of a justifiable debate between experts and professionals. No, that was a lie. I am reviewing a really bad movie. If you look it up on Netflix, it is considered a RomCom, a comedy, a teen movie, and a drama. But, as Nick Suss of Storieshouse.com once described it: “It is trite, predictable, not funny, and just plain awful.” This film is entitled It’s a Girl Boy Thing and before I overanalyze it for your comedic pleasures, let me start by prefacing a little bit. This film was not released in theaters in the United States, but rather in the UK and Canada. However, it is set in a high school in America. This film, much to my misunderstanding, received a 66 on Rottentomatoes.com. That is the same rating that the best comedy of our generation, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, received. The film was released by a studio owned by Mel Gibson and listed Sir Elton John as an executive producer. So, pretty much what I am saying is, there is no logical reason for anyone to have any prior knowledge of the existence of this film.
Let me begin this long winded review by saying that I would characterize this cinematic work of dribble as a character piece, a story about a boy and a girl. The boy and the girl have lived next door to each other their entire lives, but they were born in different worlds. Your female protagonist, Nell, is an intellectual type, ridiculed, labeled a pencil neck, and never once through the entirety of the film shown to have a single friend outside of her parents. Her main goal in life is to get accepted to Yale and get a degree in Literature. For every bit of intellect that Nell has, she lacks knowledge of what commoners understand, utterly oblivious to the inner-workings of the proletariat (I know that word has a Marxist connotation, I just mean it as a synonym for the 99% that the Occupy Movement so strictly labeled as existent) and content to be that way. Outside Nell’s window lies Woody. Woody is a hormone driven football star who would be described by Charlie Kelly as having Donkey Brains. He is dating the head cheerleader, his best friend owns a cool car, and he is just one game away from solidifying himself as a scholarship athlete for next year. As the film begins, Nell is seen reciting Romeo and Juliet’s window scene to herself at her desk, which sort of serves as the weakest attempt at foreshadowing ever, but we’ll get to that. Her memorization of the timeless and overrated work is suddenly interrupted by a booming vibration from across the yard courtesy of 50 Cent. It seems her nemesis Woody has been bumping to some swell music (Is that what the kids say now a days?) and it is really cramping Nell’s style; she’s trying to party like it’s 1599 and the jock across the street is listening to the musical heritage of the ghetto. And I know all of you literature nerds are thinking right now that Romeo and Juliet was written nearly a decade before 1599, and to be partying like it was 1599 would involve reading something more along the lines of Julius Caesar, but if you’re thinking that, you seriously need to shut up. Nell pleads her neighbor to deafen the music and Woody accepts, based solely on the exception that Nell flashes him. Nell declines, turns around in a tiff, gets her pajamas stuck in the window, and inadvertently flashes him, satisfying the exception to the delight of Woody. Now boys, this is a PG-13 film, don’t go rushing to Netflix, you won’t see anything. (Collective sighs of disapproval, I know)
In the next scene we are told that this is the week of Homecoming, and Woody, the starting QB for his high school football team is going to be showcased in front of a big time scout. His breakfast consists of blue collar food, his dad is a blue collar man who works at a spatula factory (which exist in this reality), and his mom is played by blue collar British lady Sharon Osbourne. Simultaneously, we learn that on that same Friday Nell has an interview with a representative from her dream school, Yale, to decide whether or not she will get in Early Action. Her parents remind me entirely of Mike Hannigan’s parents on Friends. They make her the only suitable breakfast for a growing girl who is a senior in high school and by her appearance well past puberty, oatmeal, and instruct her on how to behave as a lady by making her kiss her mother’s hideous, mole covered cheek goodbye each morning. Nell misses the bus that morning and Woody catches a ride from his best friend “Horse”, who is the epitome of a bad person. They drive away, yadda yadda yadda, they splash Nell with water from a conveniently leaky fire hydrant, yadda yadda yadda, Nell somehow arrives at school first with her hair all messed up and her clothes soaking wet because it wouldn’t have been logical to walk six or seven houses backwards to change, yadda yadda yadda, the school day begins. Woody makes out with his girlfriend in the hallway, again conveniently next to Nell’s locker, and Nell spews insults at him like Trent Dilfer talking about Mark Sanchez or Bill Maher talking about Sarah Palin. But who would of guessed it, today was the day of the school field trip to the Ancient History Museum and they happen to be studying ancient Meso-American cultures! It’s 12/21/12 themed, oh the serendipity! At the museum, the teacher who has the character development of every teacher in a teen movie dictates they are looking at the statue of the Aztec (close enough) God of Sorcery who was said to be a shape shifter. I think I see where this is going now. The two important characters are forced to work together on the project and they begin arguing immediately right in front of the statue. Some weird vibes start spewing out of the statues round and see-through chest and they encircle the pair like spirits entering the bodies to possess the young ones to do evil deeds. Though that would have been an interesting twist, I think we all see what is about to happen. BODY SWAP TIME PEOPLE! WE ARE ON CODE RED! THIS JUST TURNED INTO A BODY SWAP COMEDY!
Allow me to divert from the analysis of the film for a paragraph and explain my take on the genre. Here is my dirty little secret, I will watch any body swap comedy. I know all body swaps have the same general plot: Person A and Person B both have something really important to do on the same day, Person A and Person B try and get back at each other for their personal differences on the first few days of the swap, as the big day nears they try to make amends but they fail, they both seem to borderline succeed on the big day and they learn a valuable lesson about interpersonal relations, so the curse is lifted. I have seen all sorts of these films. I’ve seen age swaps, family swaps, friend swaps, stranger swaps, and gender swaps, but I had, before tonight, never seen a gender swap between non strangers of the same age excluding an episode of Lizzie McGuire I vaguely remember including a body swap, but I may be very wrong on that one. When done correctly, the body swap can be one of the best mediums of comedy, as it can draw on stereotypes without being prejudiced. Racism, sexism, agism, disability, and even dishonor to the family name is on the table if it is done tastefully. However, done incorrectly you get something along the lines of a creepy kid’s imagination after seeing Mystique in X-Men comics. The films always include a few archetypal inclusions, such as the friends that really wasn’t a friends after all, a new love interest being found, and oddly enough the exploitation of an ancient foreign religion. Freaky Friday has Confucianism. The Change Up uses Greek mythology. The Hot Chick uses the Mayans to swap bodies. This one takes advantage of the Aztecs. Just man up and blame Western Civilization eventually geez. Now back to the film itself.
Both people set their alarms for seven a.m. the next morning and that is when the feigned hilarity ensues. We first see the person who yesterday was Woody wake up and do what every man does in movies first thing in the morning, reaches for his nether regions. Uh-oh, nothing is there! Then he realizes that he has engrossed mammary organs. To quote Woody’s actually comical inner monologue, he has the correct amount of breasts (he didn’t say breasts) but the wrong amount of things down there. He then does the inevitable, walks in front of a mirror, and sees he has transformed into Nell. Gasp. Nell’s revelation is much more sudden, as she awakes to see herself harder than a diamond in an ice storm. Scared, she throws on some clothes, adorning the first thing she can find, and runs downstairs to escape but is stopped by Woody’s parents from breakfast. The same exact thing happens to Woody has he tries to escape, wearing Nell’s Wednesday underwear on a Tuesday and making a mockery of Nell’s anal retentive system. We then see the two forced to eat the other’s favorite breakfast and they both throw up. Ha, it’s funny because he likes undercooked meat and she likes over-ground oatmeal. He’s a rebel and she’s a goody-goody, we get it. Woody as Nell misses is the bus and is forced to walk to school while Nell as Woody is forced to ride with Horse to school in his convertible, fear stricken by the rap music blasting through the speakers. The two arrive at school and instantly blame each other for what has happened, after all Nell is smart so she knows witchcraft and Woody is a boy so he knows how to make people swap bodies. Once they realize that neither is to blame and neither knows how to fix it, they decide to finish the day as the other person, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible even though Nell as Woody cries every thirty seconds of film time that she is on screen and Woody as Nell delivers a speech on why he/she thinks that J-Lo is the greatest living American. After the class they insult one another more, they get in another fight, and they retreat to their respective neighbor’s houses for the night.
The next day begins exactly as you would expect. If you guessed that they would both wake up at 7 a.m. again and both instantly realize that they were still swapped and get really angry, you were right. Okay, from now on, I have to establish this precedent. If I am referring to Nell or Woody, I am referring to the actual person. If I am referring to “Nell” or “Woody”, I am referring to who everybody sees. There, that’ll save some time and confusion. Anyway, “Nell” wakes up to her alarm blasting the opening lyrics to “Candle in the Wind” and inside his inner monologue describes it as crap. “Woody” sees Woody ten hut again and starts spastically trying to force it down, as all women trapped in men’s bodies would do. This is the point where I would like to commend this film for not falling down the rabbit hole of easy comedy and making Woody infatuated with his own breasts and not making a confused Nell walk into the men’s locker room. Those scenes are too cliché even for this film, which is literally nothing but clichés. Disgusted by Woody’s usual ensemble, “Woody” decides to dress in a nice button down shirt and khaki pants, looking like, as “Nell” describes it, “the female version of you.” Though they encounter at school, we have to suspend reality for a moment and assume that “Nell” could now run home, change, and catch the bus all before classes begin, as he/she does to change clothes into what style he was going for: high class hooker. Because this is what happens in high schools, everybody whistles and gives Nell two or three takes while her hair blows in the wind like the front doors of the school were hair dryers set to the highest setting. We are now at the point where the two enemies are trying to sabotage their opponents lives, which should easily be the funniest part of the film if this film had any comedy, so it just turned into cattiness and distasteful awkwardity. Here is the chain of reaction for you: “Woody” performs very poorly in football practice one day, so out of revenge “Nell” makes himself look like a street walker. “Woody” then decides to break up with her head cheerleader girlfriend in front of the entire school eating simultaneously in the cafeteria and call her a “big slut”, so “Nell” decides that he is going to lose Nell’s virginity with the school’s resident dissident. Wait, let’s examine that last line a little bit. Let’s start with the vindictive move of breaking up with someone’s girlfriend out of dislike for the person. That is low. That is too low to be glorified, but that is not the quizzical part of this one-upsmanship. Let’s assume that Woody as Nell having sex with someone would even classify as Nell losing her virginity as Nell, Woody, “Nell”, and “Woody” all assume in the movie. Even if this is so, shouldn’t someone going to Yale understand that this has to be a bluff? We can all understand that even though “Nell” is a boy, he doesn’t understand that he is a boy inside and still would refuse to sleep with a man. And as “Nell” rides away on some dirtbag’s motorcycle, there are so many better things “Woody” could have done as revenge instead of cry. For example, she could have kissed the token gay guy that will be in the film later for a gratuitous gay joke and actually made people think Woody was homosexual. She could’ve asked a really ugly girl out on a date and ruined his reputation. She could’ve quit the football team and quite literally ruined his life. But all she did was cry like a little girl. I would say grow a pair, but she already did, zing!
Upon arriving at school the next day, everyone is murmuring that Nell is a tramp and that no one would’ve ever expected that from such a rich, confident, geeky girl. But here is where the situational irony comes in, aside from the fact that we know they have swapped bodies and the rest of the student population does not know, that has been there all along. The irony I speak of is that in the previous scene, we saw “Nell” get really drunk in the dissident’s trailer and try to get himself forced upon a man (that was a weird phrase) but came to the realization that that was “so really gay” to use his words and decided against going through with the fatal blow to the life of Nell. But the blow had already been blown, as still dressed like a disease ridden lady of the night “Nell” arrives at school the next morning to a cavalcade of rumors and people looking down on her like she was at the foot of Kilimanjaro. Logically, upon seeing this “Woody” goes and cries in a stairwell as the token teacher walks by and is confused by why Woody is crying. “Woody” justifies with the reason; “Because I lost my virginity in a trailer park.” This bamboozles the teacher and we then see “Woody” and “Nell” encounter each other at Nell’s locker, where “Nell” tells “Woody” that the only Woody in Nell has been Woody the person. You see what I did there? “Nell” rushes to the gymnasium like a one woman stampede, but also like a one man stampede, and confronts the dissident who obviously I don’t remember the name of to fight him and make him confess that he didn’t lay a finger on his feminine little football playing body. (I am well aware my use of pronouns has been as confusing as all get out in this, and there is a reason. If you want to see the movie, fine by me, but I am trying to illustrate to each and every one of you the tension and confusion that these characters feel on a moment to moment basis. And I like to confuse people.) As he goes in to beat the crap out of the dissident, he realizes he is a girl, and he starts manhandling her as if he was going to make him his woman again, but just in the nick of time “Woody” comes in and knocks his lights out, saving herself from being raped on the gym floor and having to watch it. The dissident then confesses to being a Milford Man when it comes to Nell, nothing has been seen or heard, and his character is removed from the movie as he was just in it to catalyze the weirdest friendship you will ever see. Ever if this film had a moment of enjoyability, it was this one.
From this point, we usher ourselves into the second stage of the three part body swap revelation. We are now at the point where they realize they must work together to achieve their goals and return to their normal bodies. We take a slight diversion from the plot to meet Horse’s girlfriend Chanel and learn that Horse cheats on her at every opportunity. This was the director’s feeble attempt to create both subplot and subtext, but it failed. Miserably. We then go to the token montage scene, where we watch Woody teaching “Woody” how to throw a football, as she must in six days learn how to utilize the inherent talent in Woody’s body, learn the entire game of football and the school’s entire playbook, play well enough in front of a scout in order to get a scholarship, and do so while still making everyone in the school think that she is actually Woody. A daunting task, but small when you realize that she can both learn at a rapid rate and already has the skills as potential energy compared to the next. Nell’s task is to teach “Nell” who to be both a polite and career driven woman and how to be smart. Now I can understand learning the game of football in less than a week, I did it when I was five years old, but to learn intellect is not only redundant but impossible. Because Shakespeare equals intellect, Nell makes “Nell” memorize sonnet after sonnet after sonnet, drilling 16th century lingo into his pretty little head. This is when the two become friends and bond over their shared experience. They feel comfortable enough with each other for “Woody” to ask “Nell” how she would normally alleviate the situation of having to say hello to Woody every morning on his camping trip. “Nell” responds there is only one way that he knows how, and moves his hand back and forth in front of his lady business. Grossed out, “Woody” queries if there is any other way, and “Nell” remarks that if he needed a quick fix, he would just close his eyes and think about Nell. Burn! Too late in the film for something that insulting, as they are friends now, but let’s let that pass.
Now the two people must live one another’s lives perfectly, as it is the one day of the weekend in this film that quite easily spans two weeks. “Nell” gets himself invited to a slumber party with his now ex-girlfriend by Chanel, who he has girl talk with on a bench because Chanel thinks Horse is cheating on her. “Woody” has to go to a drunken bacchanal with Horse to be further accepted by the people that are already Woody’s friends because that makes sense. While “Woody” gets really drunk because he now sucks at all drinking games, “Nell” gets to watch the three most popular girls in school change into their pajamas, give each other makeovers, and gossip about Woody. This scene culminates in two realizations for “Nell.” First, he hears that his girlfriend only dated him because he is a football star. Second, he shrieks like the little girl he is when the other women in the room make him get a Brazilian Wax on his lady parts. I assume he didn’t tell Nell about this, but as he swings on an evergreen tree from her room where he slept that night even though he was at a sleepover into his own room where the massively hung over “Woody” is sleeping, he remarks that he is really feeling the Brazilian. Guiltily, I laughed at that part. They talk about their experiences from the previous night and then off to school because it is a Thursday now. Don’t you love those random Wednesday’s off in the middle of school weeks? Nothing of any consequence happens that day at school, but after school we hear Nell’s mom telling “Nell” that he cannot hang out with himself any longer because his family is low class and low intellect. We also hear that Nell’s dad and Woody’s dad used to be friends, but that fact is such a waste of a scene that I stopped listening completely. Distressed by hearing Nell’s mom’s disparaging comments towards his family, “Nell” does what every female member of the intelligentsia does when she is angry and goes and throws footballs in the rain. (This scene defies the logic of the movie to me. If “Woody” can still throw a ball perfectly despite never having thrown a ball in her life, why can “Nell” also throw a perfect spiral? It doesn’t matter to me that she is throwing far longer than her strength should be capable of, but it does bother me that she does it with the precision of Tom Brady. Did these two actors actually swap bodies for this role or is the actress actually a gifted passer. If the second is true, good for you girl. If the first is true, holy crap these people needs Oscars and a Nobel Prize.) “Woody” tracks him down and “Nell” explains to her why it is hard for him to deal with the pressure of living in a bad neighborhood, being poor, and having to do one thing well or be forced to work in the spatula factory. Again, forget that these two people live right next door to each other, so their socio-economic statuses can’t be too far apart, and take this as what it is, an emotional scene for both the male/female and female/male characters alike. It is also here where “Nell” asks himself to the homecoming dance that is two days away, because they both couldn’t stand going with anyone else because of their predicament. But they must get to sleep, as tomorrow is the big day and they both needn’t catch a cold.
Its climax time people! We are at threat level midnight! The climactic moments begin on the campus of Yale. Finally, we are given light to the location of this movie. We are somewhere in the northeastern United States that is easily in walking distance of Yale. That narrows it down to four different states, but we shall carry on. “Nell” is forced to do the entrance interview for Nell, and at first he does really well. He talks about why poetry is so important to her and talks about some of her favorite ancient poets, but when the interviewer asks if she likes any modern poetry, “Nell” responds, nope because it’s crap. This was the end of the interview and “Nell” was asked to leave until like a flash he realized that he had known modern poets all along. URBAN POETRY PEOPLE! He did her Yale entrance interview by quoting 50 Cent, Marshall Mathers, and Snoop Dogg! Boo-yah-ka-sha would be the phrase I would have used if I was in the scenario. Now he rushes to the field to watch himself play football. At first he rushes onto the sideline, where I initially thought he was going to pull a reverse Kim Possible and just play as a girl in pads and reveal to the world that they had been body swapped all along. (That’s it. I have to stop making Disney Channel references. It’s making me sound like a girl. But I am a man! I am a proud man! From the Proud Family. DAMMIT! Fresh start. No more Disney Channel references from now on. I don’t want to sound like a girl. Unless this film has taken an impact on me, in which case there is something seriously wrong with me. I need to snap out of this parenthetical distraction and get back to the plot, something big is about to happen.) Eventually, he retreats to the stands to watch the game with his parents and watch as “Woody” plays like a young Brett Favre out there. She’s just slinging it around like she’s playing catch in her front yard out there. And on the final play of the game, “Woody” runs the ball 20 yards to pay dirt for the game winning score of 17-14.
At this point, the film just becomes a romantic comedy and it loses all of its gusto on the final stretch. Woody’s parents convince “Nell” to run down on to the field and get the guy that is himself for himself. Before he arrives, “Woody” is given the scholarship papers from the scout and Nell has succeeding in being a football player. He runs into the tunnel, this high school had a tunnel, to greet himself and they exchange with one another how their respective days went. “Woody” remarks on how much she loves football and the adrenaline rush that comes with it and “Nell” talks about how he did the best he could to succeed on the interview. The Aztec God is pleased and they are transformed back into their regular bodies. Never mind that it took a full night’s sleep last time and now it was instantaneous, we have a movie to finish. As they part ways because Woody is swept off of his feet by his teammates, we see a happy as a clam Nell trying to chase after him. But his cheerleader ex-girlfriend stuffs her tongue down his throat first and a distressed Nell sees that and runs off crying. That poor thing, she’s been through so much lately, she just wants to shove her tongue down the throat that has been hers for about two weeks.
The next day it is time for homecoming. Nell refuses to come despite Woody’s many advances and Woody surrenders to going with his ex. A despondent Nell receives the message that she has gotten into Yale through the mail, but that can’t pull her out of her doldrums. Woody wins Homecoming King and his ex wins Homecoming Queen, but as they are about to dance, you guessed it, Nell shows up looking as stunning as ever. You see, her father had bought her, or possibly him, a nice dress for homecoming that the kids describe as “dope” with matching shoes the kids describe as “heavy.” Her father convinces her to go and the whole school parts as she walks in. She walks at Woody, the two embrace one another and the movie should have ended there. But it didn’t. We still had to resolve the Chanel storyline which no one cared about. If you care, she stole Horse’s clothes and made him go to the dance naked. He covered his junk with balloons and asked the token gay guy if he had heard who won king and queen. The gay guy popped the balloons and his eyes got really wide. There was the gratuitous gay scene I was talking about earlier. As the film ends, we see Woody and Nell kissing in front of the tree in front of their houses as their fathers share drinks. And they all lived happily ever after. But wait, there is still some movie left during the credits.
It is here where the movie loses its entire purpose and truly reveals why it sucks. In this little cut scene, Nell reveals to her parents she is going to take a one year sabbatical from school to be with Woody at his undisclosed college. Nell’s mom faints and her dad is happy, which is backwards in every other real life situation, and she drives off into the sunset with Woody in his new car. This scene set the feminist movement back a century. Now, I am not a feminist or a literature expert, but I am pretty sure the theme of this movie is that you need to accept opposite gendered people for their differences and love overcomes all quarrels. However, the smartest girl in school just gives up a year at Yale to be a concubine for her boyfriend during his first year of college! That’s the message you want us to get from this. Any career driven woman should give up her dreams and aspirations to be with a guy even if it means forgoing a year of college at arguably the top university in the world? You can’t leave me hanging like that. That is pure filth. Don’t get me wrong, I am more than content with seeing women occupy traditional roles in film, but this. That was not how this movie should have ended. I am sorry to nitpick this one scene, but seriously? Are you trying to tell me that I sat through over an hour and a half of nonsensical garbage to see the girl submit to the guy’s will out of love? Where is the angst, the hatred, the edge that made this movie almost refreshing in the first place? That’s it, they can’t end it like this. They need a sequel. Here’s my pitch:
Distressed by a year away from her academic endeavors, Nell begins to explore herself while on the campus of Woody’s college. Woody, angered by his recent redshirt, finds himself without an identity on his campus. Each of the characters, unable to cope with their new roles, wonder if there must be another way. So they both decide to cling to each other even more. But this causes them to fight, as the tension of making a relationship work is getting to them in the high stress environment of college. While arguing in front of a statue of some ancient Zoroastrian deity, they both exclaim “You just don’t understand what it’s like for me!” At this point the deity does not swap their bodies like last time, but he swaps their talents instead a la Space Jam and the Monstars. Suddenly, Nell can run, jump, throw, and hit like a man and Woody now knows everything about literature and mathematics. Unaware of this, they break up and slowly come to realize that they are different. Nell uses her new found talents to find a new boyfriend, which happens to be the player above Woody on the depth chart. But this love triangle can’t last, because the twist of the film is that not only did they swap talents, but if they don’t find a way to transfer their talents back to their correct owners, they will slowly start to become the other person. Hilarity ensues as Nell starts to grow a beard while on a date with her new boyfriend and when Woody’s hair grows out while he is in the locker room with his teammates. It’s a race against the clock to see if they can become themselves before they are sentenced to a life as someone else. Starring Samuel L. Jackson as the school’s head football coach, Courtney Cox as the very attractive older English teacher that Woody has an eye for, some teen heartthrob as the starting quarterback, and introducing me as Extra #2, the movie will be entitled: It’s a Girl Boy Thing 2: The Quest for Self. Now tell me you wouldn’t see that movie.