It's a rare day you find a female-driven comedy that doesn't focus solely on romantic entanglements or who's prettier, because, obviously, that's all women have the mental capacity to bicker and pull hair over, right, Hollywood?
But the prospect of "You Again," about a nerd-girl-made-good (Kristen Bell) confronting the queen bee ("Cloverfield"s Odette Yustman) who made her life miserable in high school before the mean girl marries her brother (sadly under-watched "Lone Star" rising star James Wolk), seemed ready to sidestep all of those banal clichés. Sure, it was still set around a wedding, but that just served as a backdrop, setting the stage for a showdown so many would love to have (Chenoa Thomas, we'll meet you in the parking lot any day, any time). Add to the mix a cast including hotter-than-summer-in-Boca Betty White, Sigourney Weaver, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Kristin Chenoweth and "You Again" has all the right ingredients to serve up a comedy soufflé that's airy, sweet and satisfying.
So why does it fall flat and airless?
Is it director Andy Fickman's fault? Fickman's career has been frustratingly mercurial to follow. We loved his early efforts, "Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical" and the vastly underrated but cultishly beloved Shakespearian rewrite, "She's the Man," but "The Game Plan" and "Race to Witch Mountain" left us cold.
Is it the way the film spirals out of control and into Disney Channel sitcom territory by pitting Weaver and Curtis against each other in a sophomoric battle mirroring Bell and Yustman's?
Is it the inexperience of first-time screenwriter Moe Jelline showing in a script of cobbled together sight gags?
Is it the continued curse of female comedies?
The answer: All of the above.
While Bell makes for a charming and skilled lead, the film's credibility is instantly shot when the audience is asked to buy her as a pimply, four-eyed loser. Bell is simply too sunny, golden and glorious to be believably bullied. Meanwhile, Yustman, whose career has been largely based on scream queen roles, lacks the comedy chops to stand out in a crowd with credits ranging from "A Fish Called Wanda" to everyone's favorite Lifetime reruns, "The Golden Girls."
Less a feature film than a series of showy vignettes, "You Again" is familiar in the worst kind of way as it meanders along by rote, leaving behind an awkward afterburn that makes you feel like you're stuck in a "Saved by the Bell" episode that's all Screech and no Kelly or Zach. And no one wants to see Jamie Lee Curtis acting like Screech. A continuous loop of her commercials about yogurt that makes you poop would be more enjoyable.