I’m a Ben Grimm Thing.
The “body swap” has been a favorite comedy device of Hollywood’s for many years, and it will no doubt to continue to be in the future. In movies, the switcheroo is usually between a young person and older person. But on TV, especially cartoons, there have been all kinds of body swaps, with everyone from best friends to bitter enemies walking a mile or two in each others’ shoes. In It’s a Boy Girl Thing, the switch is between genders: a tough high school guy and a mousy teen girl.
Meet Woody Deane (Kevin Zegers, Zoom: Academy for Superheroes). He’s his high school’s quarterback, looking forward to a big game for homecoming, where there might be college recruiters watching. Meanwhile, life is good, with his many friends and his perky blonde cheerleader girlfriend (Brooke D’Orsay, Room 10).
Meet Nell Bedworth (Samaire Armstrong, Rise: Blood Hunter). You can usually find her with her nose in a book, especially Shakespeare. She doesn’t have many friends at school, where she’s known by the nickname “Pencil Neck,” but she’s looking forward to her upcoming interview at Yale University, which represents a better life for her after high school.
Woody and Nell have lived next door to each other for most of their lives, and, over the years, they’ve grown to dislike each other. She might one-up him academically at school, but he and his pals play pranks on her all the time. Then, after an encounter with a strange statue during a museum field trip, Nell and Woody wake up the next morning in each other’s bodies.
Now, the pair must figure out how to get through each day, trying to fill in for each other, while searching for some way to reverse what’s happened. The whole time, they know that dates of the game and the interview are rapidly approaching.
There are two key elements at work in the body swap subgenre—the thought of, “what if I were someone else for a day?” This is then followed by the horror of, “what if I were someone I didn’t want to be for a day…or more?”
With the emphasis on gender roles, it’s expected that Nell and Woody have some difficulties figuring out just how each other’s body works. Although this is a key element to the story, it’s not dwelled on in a bawdy way. In the bonus features, the filmmakers stress that their intent was to make a romantic comedy, and not a “gross-out” comedy. So although there are scenes such as Woody-in-Nell’s-body checking him/herself out in the mirror, or Nell-in-Woody’s-body figuring out how to go to bathroom, these moments are kept light and silly, without turning into pathetic sex and poop jokes.
The opening of the movie goes to great lengths not just to show how different Nell and Woody are from each other, but how much they dislike each other as well. She hates his music, he plays numerous pranks on her, and so on. They constantly bicker, and they seem to cross paths on a regular basis. Perhaps this is foreshadowing what’s to come, as not only do their lives intersect in a most unusual way, but also how they try to sabotage each other when in each other’s bodies. Nell-in-Woody’s-body dresses like a buttoned-up preppie, and Woody-in-Nell’s-body responds by attempting to dress and act like a slut. As you’d expect, the pair eventually realizes each other’s strengths as well, along with their need for one another to get by.
As the guy in a girl’s body, Samaire Armstrong has the more fun part. She gets to act tough, talk raunchy, and she even throws a punch or two. Kevin Zegers has it a little harder. He plays Nell-in-Woody’s-body with his shoulders bent inward and his head down, as if he/she’s trying to shrink out of sight. Some might argue that they’re not 100 percent exact at imitating each other, but the actors have plenty of chemistry and can bicker nicely at each other. It’s up to them to carry the movie, and they do it well.
For a movie about looking at others in a new light, there sure are a lot of stereotypes to be found. Apparently, this high school doesn’t have any female athletes, and it has no smart boys. Speaking of boys, they are apparently of very little interest to Nell. I get that she is driven to succeed academically, but am I really to believe that a 17-year-old girl has no curiosity at all about the opposite sex, that there are no boys she might be interested in? Her reaction to every male she encounters for most of the film boils down to, “Gross, a boy!” as if she’s in second grade.
Get this: Musician Elton John was an executive producer for this movie, and as such, he gathered together a fairly impressive group to provide songs for the soundtrack. Artists heard include Eminem, the Black Eyed Peas, Ozzy Osbourne, James Blunt, Girls Aloud, Mystikal, and, uh, Kelly Osbourne. Kelly and mom Sharon Osbourne also have cameos in the movie. If nothing else, Sir Elton deserves credit for being a good sport—there’s a running joke about today’s teens thinking his music is dorky.
The 2.35:1 anamorphic picture holds up nicely, with plenty of bright, vivid colors throughout. The sound, in both 5.1 and 2.0 surround, is also excellent, nicely showing off the many songs on the soundtrack. The featurette and cast interviews focus on the two leads and their approaches to playing each other, as well as the cast’s thoughts on gender roles in general. “Are You More Boy or Girl” is a silly little interactive quiz you take with your remote that supposedly shows you how masculine or feminine you are. “The History of the Statue” is tongue-in-cheek text feature about the (fictional) history of the body-swapping statue and other body-swaps perpetrated in the past. Some talent bios and the movie’s theatrical trailer round out the package.
It’s a Boy Girl Thing is a light, fluffy comedy with a pair of likable leads. If today’s blockbuster teen comedies are too lowbrow for your personal tastes, think about giving this one a try.