Film Review: You Again

A high-school misfit turned success story is dismayed to learn that her brother is about to marry the teen witch who tormented her back when she was a sensitive geek girl.

At 26, fresh-faced cutie Marni Olivia Olsen (Kristen Bell) has conquered the world’s most glamorous, envied profession—yes, girls, she’s a publicist!—and transformed her painful memories of high-school torture by mean girls into a funny little motivation fable. But as those who try to bury the past inevitably discover, not only is Marni’s past not dead—it isn’t even past.

Flush with the success of being handed a coveted promotion to VP in the New York office, Marni goes home for the wedding of her beloved older brother, Will (James Wolk), only to discover that Joanna (Odette Yustman), the butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-her-mouth fiancée whose good heart, sweet nature and funny, friendly ways have seduced the entire Olsen family (from Betty White's no-nonsense Granny Bunny to Cocoa Puff the disloyal pup), is none other than hell-spawned cheerleader J.J. Clark, who ruined four long years of Marni’s life.

And to top it all off, Joanna pretends not to recognize Marni, who instantly sheds her calculated charm, faux-friendly veneer and coldly Machiavellian smarts (she must have them—how else did she rise to the top of a dog-eat-dog profession?) in order to bumble her way through a series of degradingly unsuccessful schemes to expose Joanna for the evil witch she is.

But wait—there’s more! When Joanna’s only living relative, glamorous, luxury spa-hotel magnate Ramona (Sigourney Weaver), arrives at the Olsen house, she and Marni’s mom, Gail (Jamie Lee Curtis)—who chose well-heeled domestic bliss with a handsome doctor (Victor Garber) over a high-powered career—exchange looks of horrified recognition: Adolescent best friends turned teenage enemies, their high-school horror story culminated in a memorable bit of prom-night humiliation involving a to-die-for dress and a swimming pool.

Directed by Andy Fickman (Race to Witch Mountain, Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical) and written by first-timer Moe Jelline, You Again is predicated on the grim notion that you can transform yourself into the swanniest swan that ever glided across an ice-blue lake, but you’ll never be free of the ugly duckling whose wayward fuzz and ungainly waddle were mercilessly mocked by elegant, early-maturing egrets. All of which is true enough…if it were also funny, You Again would be a bittersweet gem.

Unfortunately, it’s not. Despite the efforts of its top-notch cast, You Again quickly degenerates into warm ’n’ cuddly clichés—anyone can transcend the cruel excesses of youth, no one is the sum total of the meanest thing she ever said, everyone deserves a second chance and a hug…um, yeah, whatever. It doesn’t bode well that the film’s funniest moments involve Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (Fickman’s Witch Mountain star), who plays an unexpectedly sensitive air marshal sucked into Marni’s mid-air homebound meltdown. He’s flat-out hilarious, but also utterly peripheral to the main story. Ditto (to a lesser degree) celebrity wedding planner Georgia King (Kristin Chenoweth) and Joanna’s neurotic ex-fiancé Tim (Kyle Bornheimer): amusing but not the main event. In the end, You Again is just one more promising idea ground into bland, tasteless Hollywood sausage.