Sydney White (2007) dir. Joe Nussbaum
Starring: Amanda Bynes, Sara Paxton, Matt Long
Amanda Bynes can be a star, but just hasn’t seemed to breakthrough. The reason is roles like "Sydney White", which recycle the same uncreative high school movie formula which put plainly just isn’t funny by itself. What saves the film from complete failure is how it refashions the story of Snow White against this tweener formula.
Sydney White is like Snow White, she grew up in a male-dominated household. Her mom died at an early age and so her plumber Dad brought her up alone with his construction worker colleagues. She’s a tomboy with power tools. She also happened to grow up to be gorgeous (though she appears to spend too much time in the tanning bed) and can attracts guys like fly on shit.
When Sydney goes to college she finds herself out of the element and thrust into the competitive world of sororities. Her mother was a legend at Phi Kappa Gamma, and so her lifelong goal is to follow in her footsteps. In her way are the evil stepsisters..ahem… I mean the evil sorority girls who frequently surf “Am I Hot or Not.com” to determine their social standing on campus. The girls, led by the evil Rachel Witchburn, make her pledging extremely difficult. White’s pledge is sabotaged by Witchburn and she is banished to live with a house full of geeks (the seven dorks). Sidney finds common ground with the dorks and together they work to avenge Sidney’s plight and get her back into Phi Kappa Gamma.
Everything in “Sydney White” is skewed toward characterizations as opposed to real characters. The dorks in the film are like “Revenge of the Nerds” – so extreme they are like cartoons of dorks. I guess since dork-chic is in style the writers had to make them really pathetic to make them stand out such – one of them actually talks through the use of a handpuppet! Wow.
The Snow White references are clever and are only elements that sustained my interest. As mentioned, the filmmakers incorporate the charming prince and the stepsisters, but there’s also the mirror on the wall, magical kiss, the hi-ho song etc etc. Some are just laughable – for reasons I’m not sure of – there actually is a ‘sleepy’ character who is an African exchange student who sleeps all time because in three years he still has jet lag! That’s hilarious.
Amanda Bynes is talented. She has some chops with physical comedy that her contemporaries don’t (Lindsay Lohan, the Olson Twins, Hilary Duff). But she’s given such unchallenging material, it’s pathetic. I’m glad she was cast in “Hairspray” – a lesser role, but at least one that audiences over the age of 12 will watch. I don’t know how old Ms. Bynes is, but she shouldn't be making films for 12 year olds, which is what “Sidney White” is.
“Sidney White” is available on DVD Tuesday Jan 22 from Universal Home Entertainment