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Whatever It Takes   D+

Columbia Pictures

Year Released: 2000
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: David Hubbard
Writer: Mark Schwahn
Cast: Shane West, Marla Sokoloff, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, James Franco, Christine Lakin, Aaron Paul, Colin Hanks.

Review by Michael Scrutchin

Whatever It Takes is a dumb, derivative teen comedy that shows further proof that Hollywood thinks teenagers are morons and don't like smart, original entertainment. Hollywood might be right. After all, the smartest, most original teen movies of the last couple of years -- Doug Liman's extremely fun Go and Alexander Payne's scathing black comedy Election -- didn't score big at the box office. Of course, billing those movies as "teen movies" is somewhat deceptive, since they are far more than that. Whatever It Takes, however, isn't -- and the filmmakers know it. They try to bring back the charm of the John Hughes flicks of the 1980s, but the end result is just plain insulting.

Loosely based on Edmund Rostand's classic play Cyrano de Bergerac (on which Steve Martin's Roxanne was also based), the film features one unbelievable scene after another. The characters in Whatever It Takes say and do things real teenagers never ever would -- like the guy playing an accordion in front of his entire school at prom to win the heart of a girl he thinks he may lose to another jerk. Or the same guy refusing to have sex with the girl of his dreams -- the hottest girl in school -- because he finds out that she's really just a shallow bitch. Sure, what guy can't relate to that?

The plot? Oh, yeah, right -- well, Ryan and Maggie (Shane West and Marla Sokoloff) have lived next door to each other and have been good friends most of their lives. Just friends, nothing more. Ryan has the hots for Ashley (Jodi Lyn O'Keefe), the most sought-after girl at school who might also be something of a slut. Ashley's cousin Chris (James Franco) has a thing for Maggie, so he makes a deal with Ryan. "You help me get Maggie, and I'll help you get Ashley," Chris says.

Who wants to bet that before the movie is over, Ryan realizes that (doh!) the girl he's pining after isn't the one he wants after all? Who wants to bet that the movie ends with a chaotic prom night, after which two characters share a sickeningly sappy and tender "moment" together? Who wants to bet that the movie features jokes about pretty girls vomiting on their dates, spilled urine in an old folks' home, and an elderly woman's flatulence?

Tasteless? You bet. Funny? Not a bit. In fact, the only funny moments in Whatever It Takes come from Ryan's wildly geeky sidekick friends. As it is, they are only sidekicks, but thankfully they provide a few chuckles here and there -- as when the three of them are staring intently at a computer screen, waiting for porn to download. "I told you, man, you really need to get a faster modem," one of them quips -- then it's back to the formulaic story at hand.

Whatever It Takes actually has a lot in common with last year's far superior teen comedy American Pie. But American Pie had characters that were more than just cartoon clichés, and its raunchy humor was actually funny. It also had real heart behind all its sex-crazed antics. Whatever It Takes has none of these qualities. I just hope the youth of America are smarter than this crap. If not, we're in trouble.

Review published 03.31.2000.

Follow Michael Scrutchin on Twitter or Letterboxd.

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