Never Been Kissed

Never Been KissedStarring Drew Barrymore, Michael Vartan, Molly Shannon, David Arquette, Leelee Sobieski, Jeremy Jordan, John C. Reilly, Garry Marshall.
Written by Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein.
Directed by Raja Gosnell.
1999; rated PG-13.

Grade:  D-

Review by Jen Walker.

A better title for this movie would have been "Clueless", but that would have insulted Alicia Silverstone and her charming take on the teen romantic comedy. Why, you may ask, would I (a grown woman) even bother to watch a teen movie in the first place? Two words will answer that question. Peer pressure. You see, I spend about eight hours per day with teenagers. I manage a video store and all of my employees are about a decade younger than me. They are all delightful people; smart, funny, and genuinely good friends. But every now and then, I feel a little bit out of the loop, as I did during this conversation:

"Omigod! You just haaaave to see Never Been Kissed!" says Suzi.

"Naw," I cringe, "I'm not to into teen movies anymore."

"It is soooo not a teen movie," she argues, "Drew Barrymore is almost as old as you. You'll like it."

Gee. Thanks.

So, in order to not look like an out-of-touch old lady, I fake some enthusiasm and take the movie home. I know she'll ask me my opinion when I bring it back, so now I actually have to watch it. And who knows? Maybe it will actually be good, like Clueless was.Drew Barrymore


Josie Geller (Drew Barrymore) is a young copy editor at the Chicago Sun-Times. When the opportunity arrises to get out from behind her boring desk and go undercover as a high school student, she jumps on it. A nerd the first time around, she's determined that this time, she will be popular.

After a series of flashbacks, in which Josie remembers being taunted by an entire class chanting, "Josie Grossie!", and being asked out to the prom as a prank, I began to feel very sorry for her and hoped that she would fare better this time. But then, as the film progressed, Barrymore became such an annoying supergeek, that even I (a former dork, myself) felt like chanting right along with all the meanies.

Her dweebiness knows no bounds. She's fine when she's in the company of other bookworms such as Leelee Sobieski, whose talent is wasted in this movie. But when she tries to fit in with the "cool kids", she's so outrageously idiotic that I forgave them for shunning her. Speaking of the cool kids, they are just downright nasty. And, I'm sorry for being so shallow, but the "coolest" boy in school, Guy (Jeremy Jordan), has to be one of the scrawniest little wimps I've ever seen.

There's so many things wrong here. They make a point of showing Josie's surprise at finding metal detectors at the entrance to school, but they never mention how she (a grown woman) managed to enroll as a student. Frustrated in her attempts to be accepted (and to find a compelling story), she enlists the aid of her brother, Rob (David Arquette), a former high-school baseball star and apparent authority on coolness. Now there's a second adult running around on campus, and the school even lets this one join the baseball team. What the...? He starts spreading some rumors about how hip Josie is, and then suddenly, the in-crowd is able to tolerate her. This movie makes no sense whatsoever. Even if it's supposed to be viewed as strictly fantasy, it fails. And just whose fantasy is this, anyway?

The movie is rated PG-13, and I'd like to caution parents about several things. First, while there is no nudity, the movie ventures into very dangerous sexual territory. Not only are Josie and Rob (two adults) being courted by minors, they are returning their affections. "See you around the cell block, Mrs. Robinson," Arquette says. Now, while I laughed at that line and admired that the adult characters never fully pursued these relationships, I found the whole idea a bit unsettling. At the same time, one of Josie's teachers (Vartan) is very obviously attracted to her. When her boss orders her to "go for the good story" and seduce this man, she objects, but never expresses any reason why it would be so wrong. David Arquette

Secondly, there are two scenes in which alcohol and drugs are involved, and of course, they help bring Josie out of her shell. In the first one, she consumes a magical brownie and suddenly flips out and lets loose, jumping onstage with a raggae band and making a spectacle of herself. This scene is objectionable to me, not only because it's irresponsible, but annoying in the extreme. After a while, watching Barrymore go through humiliation after humiliation became positively painful. The second scene is one we've all seen played out in a million teen comedies--the kegger. It is during this booze-fest that Josie is finally truly accepted, when Guy asks her to the prom.

This movie's entire premise is that of an adult getting an inside view on teenage reality. The question I kept asking myself while enduring it was, "This is reality?" I don't remember the popular kids taking pleasure in being deliberately cruel to everyone else. At worst, they just ignored us nobodies. And since when have teenagers become such mindless drones that when their leader proclaims that the new word for "cool" will be "rufus," everybody will suddenly start saying it?

When I took the video back to the store, I asked the girl who'd recommended it, Suzi, if that's what high school's really like now--if it's really changed that much since I graduated. Her answer was, "no." Similarly, I informed her that Josie's 80s flashbacks are a crock.

This movie is subpar on every level. As a romantic comedy, it fails miserably. Its preposterous ending is supposed to be heart-stopping, but instead, it's just plain stupid. Josie confesses a secret to everyone--that she's never been kissed, and after watching her for an hour and a half, I can see why. If you want to see Drew Barrymore in a decent romance, rent Ever After.  If you want to see a more compelling story about an adult going undercover in a high school, watch any re-run of 21 Jump Street.

Review © October 1999 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
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