-By David Noh

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In She's the Man, Shakespeare's perennial enchanter Twelfth Night is re-set in a high school where Viola (Amanda Bynes) is now a tomboyish anti-debutante who disguises herself as her own brother, Sebastian, to make the soccer team, and inadvertently falls in love with her roommate, shy hunk Duke Orsino (Channing Tatum).

Some Like It Hot, Tootsie and La Cage Aux Folles are but three triumphant comic examples of cinematic cross-dressing, but it's an undeniable fact that male-to-female gambits always seem to work better than female-to-male. From Katharine Hepburn's bizarre early disaster Sylvia Scarlett on, the concept of girls being boys never really seems to take onscreen. An early scene in She's the Man, in which Viola, as Sebastian, explains to her dorm-mates that the tampons they've discovered in her bag are a nosebleed remedy and illustrates this by shoving them in her nostrils establishes the noisy, obvious tone of this farce. The energetic cast certainly gives their all and manages to lend some propulsive flavor, but anything resembling real wit or charm is strictly A.W.O.L. The writing and direction pound you over the head with debutante catfight scenes in the ladies room, a prolonged slobbering kissing-booth sequence at a carnival (do they still have those?) and the penultimate moment when the real Sebastian (James Kirk) unveils his junk on the soccer field to prove to all and sundry that he is, indeed, a boy.

Bynes gives a hyperactive performance, coming off more as a very daffy lesbian munchkin than a convincing high-school jock. Her inflections and mannerisms are at times what could be described as sui DeGeneres, as in Ellen, but without Bynes' manic antics, the movie would be a complete, raucous zero. Tatum is duly hunky and appealing enough as Duke, while being somewhat superannuated to be a high-schooler-as are many of the male cast. At one point, Viola is asked, "Seriously, dude, how old are you?" by an actor who looks 30, if a day. Julie Hagerty provides some comic spark as Olivia's clueless mom, forever buying fluffy prom gowns for her wholly disinterested daughter.

-David Noh

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