Rated PG-13, 90 min. Directed by Joe Nussbaum. Starring Amanda Bynes, Sara Paxton, Matt Long, Jack Carpenter, Jeremy Howard, Crystal Hunt, Adam Hendershott, Danny Strong, Samm Levine, Libby Mintz, John Schneider, Arnie Pantoja, Donté Bonner.
With her Kewpie doll eyes and puffy face, Bynes has well earned her place in tween fandom. And bless her heart, she’s got decent comedic timing. But let’s hope she develops a more discerning eye for scripts before she signs up for Sydney White 2. A loosely updated version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the story follows young Sydney (Bynes) as she heads off to college, inadvertently steals a bitchy sorority queen’s hot-girl status, wins the heart of a “prince,” and winds up as the spokeswoman for a group of outcasts. From the contrived romance to the hazy lavender eye make-up that Sydney sports in every scene, there’s nothing real about this film. More at home with her comic-book collection than a pair of heels, Sydney is the quintessential movie tomboy. Having grown up mostly sans mother, Sydney arrives at college armed with photos of her late mom’s sorority days, anxious to live up to the legacy. Little does she know that the sorority is controlled by evil Rachel Witchburn (Paxton) whose style includes forcing the sisters to recite, “Target cute pledges. Avoid fat losers.” Though Sydney is certainly cute and never fat, she’s an oddball. And while her legacy status gets her in the door, Sydney makes an enemy when Rachel realizes that hot guy No. 1, Tyler Prince (Long), is into Syd. And to top it off, Syd does weird things like eats bacon, throws a football, and talks to dorks. As a result, she gets the boot on the eve of pledge initiation. What’s a skinny pretty girl with permanent lavender eye make-up to do? Why, shack up with the college dorks, of course. Consisting of seven nerds, all based loosely on the Disney dwarves (Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, etc.), the outcasts embrace the homeless Sydney. These eccentric characters provide some entertaining distraction, particularly Carpenter as the Sneezy-esque, perpetually allergic Lenny and Pantoja as the dumbed-down, Dopey-like George. But, ultimately, nothing can distract from the reality of a watered-down script with a cringe-worthy love story. A better version would have Sydney wind up with one of the nerds. The shiny-toothed Tyler just isn’t nearly as interesting as any of the seven dorks. All that to say, I will admit (begrudgingly) that I was a little moved during the climactic finale when Sydney rallies the school’s varying marginalized into a sort of celebratory protest. It’s cheesy and contrived, but even the most watered-down stories retain elements of the original masterpieces.
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