Reviewed by GREG KING.
Chicago reporter Josie Geller (Drew Barrymore) returns to high school on an undercover assignment to report about modern adolescents. In her high school days, Josie was a geek with an uncool dress sense and braces, and was the butt of many cruel practical jokes. In short, her school years were a nightmare, and she is not exactly keen on repeating it. But in returning to school and trying to fit in again, the 25 year old misfit eventually finds herself and true love.
Never Been Kissed features the usual cliches of the typical American high school comedy – the cliques, the nerds and the jocks, the outcasts, the bitchy politics, and the climactic prom night – and explores territory that will be familiar to audiences through a recent spate of adolescent comedies (She’s All That, Jawbreaker, Ten Things I Hate About You, etc), albeit without the mean spirited streak. Never Been Kissed also owes a huge debt to the films of John Hughes, which virtually established the teen genre for the ’80′s.
However, the formula has also been cleverly dressed in the familiar trappings of the romantic comedy, as the clueless Josie discovers the pangs of first love. First time writers Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein have drawn upon their own experiences at high school for much of the material, which adds a more personal element to some of the action. The pair draw out some underlying sexual tension in the growing attraction between Josie and handsome English teacher Sam Coulson (Michael Vartan, from The Myth Of Fingerprints, etc). Coulson’s lectures on Shakespeare’s As You Like It, and its themes of masks and deception, underscore one of the principal themes of this surprisingly entertaining and charming comedy.
Former editor Raja Gosnell, who made his directorial debut on the formula-driven sequel Home Alone 3, is able to leave more of a personal impression on this material.
Barrymore is not a conventional beauty, but the former wild child has recently reinvented herself as a romantic lead with films such as Ever After, the contemporary flavoured reworking of Cinderella. Barrymore’s willingness to play the awkward geek in several scenes also adds a touching element to the film that works a treat, and her enthusiastic performance lifts the film. She is well supported by Leelee Sobieski (Deep Impact, etc), Vartan, and former pin up idol Jeremy Jordan, who plays the school hunk. David Arquette provides the comic relief as Josie’s brother Rob, the former jock and high school drop out, who reluctantly returns to school to help boost her popularity. Unlike some recent romantic comedies, Never Been Kissed actually manages to offer a perfectly satisfying conclusion that will have audiences leaving the cinema smiling.