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When the girl has a hard time...
on December 9, 2008
Gender swap comedies are a motif that Hollywood revisits every decade or so. There was Switch (1991), The Hot Chick (2002), and now It's a Boy Girl Thing. Coming out of the 80s, when women wore square shoulder corporate suits and fought the glass ceiling, there was an aggression that Ellen Barkin captured. Coming out of the 90s, when gender confusion as hip, the Hot Chick followed suit. These days however, when (young) girls flash gang signs on myspace, Muay Thai kickbox each other on the head on youtube, and curse like truck drivers, Samaire Armstrong , playing her neighbor Woody trapped within, has a much harder time showcasing the rift between the sexes.
I mean c'mon: Girls today act more like boys than boys girls.
With all her shrugs, posturing, manly strut, spitting, and cursing bravado, it all but sounds like a typical girl I see in the malls.
Kevin Zegers, on the other hand, lives up to the part by pulling out all the stops on the suddenly sensitive, suddenly well-dressed, suddenly effeminate (or stereotypically gay) football jock.
One of the bonuses the story of this movie contains is the concept of "access." In many gender swapping movies, the humor and plot is based on what one sex discovers about the other half once he or she inhabits the other's body. In It's A Boy Girl Thing, that access takes a sharp turn midway into the movie, and suddenly each character discovers what is being said about him/her from the house next door. Woody (a high school football star with loud parents), inhabiting Nell's body finds out what Nell herself, taking after her mother's bourgeois snobbishness, had said about him. Nell (a preppy girl headed for Yale), inhabiting Woody, learns that the neighboring fathers, once friends, had been pushed apart by her own snobbish mom. With this revelation, Nell (with Woody inside) suddenly realizes where his place is in society.
Once the gender swap plot fades into a (social) class swap story, THEN Samaire Armstrong's acting comes alive.
I find movies about swapping roles always have a latent social critique. Of course the fact that Elton John is the executive producer helps me read into the notion of how one's environment and natural disposition will factor strongly in determining destiny. It's a visual pun on "coming out."
Well the movie is sweet and the romance is snuggle up nice. It wasn't laugh out loud funny, but then again, that may have more to do with the age of this reviewer than the movie itself.