It's a Boy Girl Thing (2006) / Comedy-Fantasy

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for sexual content, nudity, language, and some drinking, all involving teens
Running Time: 95 min.

Cast: Samaire Armstrong, Kevin Zegers, Brooke D'Orsay, Mpho Koaho, Maury Chaykin, Emily Hampshire, Sherry Miller, Sharon Osbourne, Genelle WIlliams
Director: Nick Hurran
Screenplay: Geoff Deane
Review published May 9, 2007

It's a Boy/Girl Thing is nothing new in the world of comedies, another "body swap" premise made famous through films like Freaky Friday and its remake, plus other minor hits like Vice Versa and Like Father Like Son. If there is one it seems most like, it would probably be the Rob Schneider film, The Hot Chick, as it deals with a switch in genders, as well as an ample amount of sexual humor involved with the discovery of body parts and their functions inherent in the new host bodies.

Gender role questions abound -- what else would you expect from the first effort by exec. producer Elton John and his civil partner, David Furnish?  Screenwriter Geoff Deane is no stranger to films with gender identity switches, as his last successful screenplay was for the hit Brit comedy, Kinky Boots, which featured men dressed up as women as part of the main plot. Star Kevin Zegers (Zoom) has also had some experience in gender-switching flicks, coming off of his turn as the son of a transgendered man in Transamerica. Tangentially related, co-star Samaire Armstrong's ("The OC") previous effort was kismet-switching gimmick film, Just My Luck.

Armstrong plays the stuck-up educated high school princess, Nell Bedworth, who is the unfortunate neighbor of the school's star quarterback, Woody Deane (Bedworth? Woody? Who comes up with these names? Woody's team is the Beavers -- they should have called the film, It's a Freudian Thing). Both Nell and Woody seem like they might be on the right track to higher education, with Nell getting an entrance interview at Yale, while Woody is being heavily scouted by some big-name colleges with great athletic scholarship programs.

However, everything they've worked so hard for gets put in permanent jeopardy when a class trip to the local museum has Nell and Woody getting too close to an ancient Aztec statue that encompasses them with mystical vapors.  Lo and behold, you guessed it, both students wake up in the other's body. Now Woody's body, under Nell's command, can't throw a pass, while Nell's body, under Woody's instruction, can't pass a test to save her (er, his) life. Just on the verge of the biggest challenge of their lives, they reluctantly must find a way to help one another overcome these hurdles before their futures are ruined forever.

One issue that goes right to the forefront of the problems with It's a Boy/Girl Thing is trying to determine what the potential audience for such a movie is. First, from the colorful look and perky mannerisms of the performers, it seems very much at home as one of those homogenized made-for-Disney Channel releases that tweens would regularly go for. Second, it also features that typical rom-com staple of opposites who start off at each other's throats, who are forced together through circumstances beyond their control, and end up coming to mutually beneficial terms, personally and romantically.

However, the injection of the third component is the one that is problematic for both of these is the fact that the humor is very adult at times, featuring a plethora of erection scenes, grappling over first sexual experiences, gay jokes, dick jokes, pubic hair issues, and even some choice voyeurism in neighbor's windows and in the girls' showers. It's as if director Nick Hurran (Little Black Book, Virtual Sexuality) wanted to direct another The Lizzie McGuire Movie, but he had a script aiming to be  the next chapter in the American Pie series.

I've said it so many times in my reviews that it's become a cliché: this movie suffers from being too adult for most juveniles, and too juvenile for most adults.  Don't let the PG-13 rating fool you.  They actually should have strived to be PG, but as delivered here, it very easily could have been rated R.  I suspect the cutesy, homogenized delivery softened up the MPAA, who probably only suggested that a steamy shower scene with lots of nudity be just a bit more "steamy".

The casting is typical of high school films, as most of the performers are well into their 20s. It's not too bad, although Armstrong is clearly too mature in appearance to be thought of as 17 anymore, even though she may be cute and energetic. Also typical of juvenile films is the contrived set-up, which asks us to accept that a milquetoast family could be equals in terms of housing options with the "white trash" family in the same neighborhood.

The jokes are woefully trite, as anyone who has ever seen a film where a man posing as a woman (or vice versa) will already guess that he's going to enjoy seeing her girlfriends undress in front of him, while she is going to be aghast at how the male pigs talk about their girlfriends when they are out of earshot of their significant others. Of course, both will be earnestly avoiding the advances of same-sex pursuers (in spirit, not in body), while they try to cope with how to act as if they are what they appear to be (Nell has to try not to cry when dismayed, while Woody must figure out how to do such feminine things as a bikini wax and how to put on a bra.

Despite game performances all around, It's a Boy/Girl Thing ultimately is delivered in too bland and unoriginal a fashion to entertain anyone not expecting barely-passable entertainment, not to mention too sexually explicit to cater to the one audience sure to eat this material up: young teenage girls. If you've seen the aforementioned body swap flicks, pretty much all ground has been covered by these older, better efforts. Just like the main hook of the film, the movie itself might look like it has a new body, but the insides are still the same old thing.

Qwipster's rating

©2007 Vince Leo