Oh my sweet goodness
This film was painful to watch
For many reasons
There are times when I agree with Rotten Tomatoes and there are times when I disagree. Not only do I agree with the site’s assessment of Never Been Kissed, my opinion lines up almost perfectly with several reviews.
Even the positive reviews feel the same way!
In the sea of forgettable movies, this one drowns. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s not a bad movie. But it’s utterly dull and devoid of anything interesting. Outside of Drew Barrymore’s admittedly good performance as Josie, Never Been Kissed adds nothing.
Never Been Kissed will never be missed
Let’s start with the premise. Journalist goes undercover at a high school and poses as a student to try and find a juicy story. Cute, I suppose, though unoriginal and unbelievable. She’s 25 and looks nothing like a high school student in any way. This movie took itself a little too seriously to try and pass that off as acceptable. At least 21 Jump Street was rooted in the idea that the entire film was making fun of itself.
Keep going. Josie experiences the same awkward social situations she faced in high school and my God is it painful to watch. It’s not even funny or cute; there are scenes where she is ruthlessly mocked by people almost a decade younger than she is, and she even ends up crying on a bathroom floor while wearing a body camera that everyone in the newsroom can see. It wasn’t fun to experience, even though I knew it was going to happen.
The film was surely trying to make a point about how awful high school can be, but once again, we’ve seen that movie a million times. Bring something new to the table! Cool kids vs nerds, gloppy school lunches administered by disinterested cafeteria drones, bullies and car problems, overeager gym teacher…if you’re going to traverse the land of high school tropes, you best do it in a funny and interesting way. Never Been Kissed simply drew up a checklist and hit every box without even thinking. Ugh.
And don’t even start me on the rest of the plot. Unpopular girl uses devious methods to become popular before deciding its not worth it, sticking up for the nerds. Admirable, but ferociously bland. You also knew Josie would give up her secret at a grand event; lo and behold, the prom! Lessons learned, everyone goes home happy.
There’s even a Run at the end, where her creepy teacher who totally didn’t know she was 25 until she spilled the beans dashes onto a field in front of a crowd to give her the first true kiss of her life. Hooray. Inspiring. Monumental.
Like I said, nothing wrong with the direction this movie took. There was just nothing exemplary about it. It was a comprehensive study in playing it by the book.
But Drew Barrymore was good
I give credit where it’s due. Drew Barrymore did a very good job in her role. Apparently people feel very strongly about Barrymore’s credentials if the Internet is to be believed; I know very little about her filmography but her presence in this movie was really the only thing that kept it afloat. Every other character was just a Dermot Mulroney, that is to say, a cardboard box, ruthlessly boring and cliched with nothing to offer other than being a face that spewed a few lines of dialogue here and there. Barrymore was the saving grace that elevated this movie into something slightly more than bottom-of-the-barrel flim making.
It’s completely possible that her acting was the reason this movie was uncomfortable to watch. I often find that when I hate a character on the screen (here’s looking at you, Joffrey Baratheon), it’s because the actor or actress is doing a sterling job. When I feel a character’s pain, it means they’ve conveyed that feeling well. When I feel sorry for them and don’t want them to cry on their doorstep after getting pelted by eggs thrown by a lying prom “date” and then run away to avoid being seen by her mother, I think that means the actress in question did a good job (that’s an actual scene from this movie, by the way. Kids are dicks). Honestly, just the overall feeling of being an awkward high schooler – it was conveyed very well. Unfortunately, it didn’t make up for the rest of this movie.
High school romance movies, Part 4
I’ve previously stated my surprise and general adoration for the high school romances I’ve watched. Clueless, Easy A, and 10 Things I Hate About You were all good, as was Mean Girls in the non-romcom realm. Never Been Kissed is in the same vein, but didn’t succeed. Why not?
A number of reasons. One, and probably most important, it wasn’t funny. There were few cute lines here and there but the script was so uninspired and droll. It’s supposed to be satirical and sarcastic and it didn’t do a good job of either.
Two, it didn’t have a personality. The movies I just mentioned all used music and unique cinematography to make their premises stand out. There was nothing unique about this one.
There’s probably a reason why I had never heard of this movie prior to it being put on the list.
Yessir, this was James Franco’s first-ever film appearance. It was rather inconsequential, but interesting nonetheless.
Octavia Spencer? Yessir, again. How I do love random cameos.
Chicago! Journalism! Hey, I know a bit about those two things (up for debate, if you were to ask some of my friends). Never Been Kissed did a decent job capturing the essence of a newsroom, but there was an issue I had. The fact that Josie’s editor (played by John C. Reilly) is placing his job on the line with her story is utterly dumb. What kind of editor works at a paper where he could lose his job if a copy editor who has never reported a professional story in her life doesn’t deliver? Is that how the Sun-Times actually works?
Never been kissed, my ass: Almost at the beginning of the movie, we learn that Josie actually has been kissed in her lifetime. Not a good, meaningful kiss, but a kiss nonetheless. You lie, movie title!
Sappiness Rating: Michael Vartan running onto a baseball diamond to kiss Drew Barrymore in front of a crowd of people/10
You may think I shat on this movie a little too much. I apologize if I did. Let me reiterate: NOT A BAD MOVIE. It wasn’t a Gigli or The Holiday. But it was one of the least enjoyable I’ve watched and had nothing of value that I’ll remember. This was probably the most gratingly average romcom I’ve watched yet.