'Never' mind

Movie: Never Been Kissed

Our Rating: 2.00

Want to go back to high school, only this time as a cool kid? That's the premise in "Never Been Kissed," an occasionally humorous but more often ludicrous comedy starring Drew Barrymore. As the film would lead us to believe: Never mind that you're 25, because all you need is a fake ID to register (never mind about parents), and you're back in the halls again.

It was just that easy for discontented copy editor Josie Geller (Barrymore), who jumps at the chance to break the shackles of her desk job and delve into some true investigative reporting. When the abusive owner of the Chicago Sun-Times (Garry Marshall) impulsively fires a reporter, he frees the frumpy Josie to go undercover at South Glen South High to ferret out a juicy story.

Not only does Josie see this as the opportunity to jump-start her career as a reporter but also to wipe clean her tortured high-school memories. It seems that "Josie Grossy's" first go-around was loaded with the same sufferings and humiliations that caused Carrie to set the school ablaze.

But the very-bright Josie quickly finds that she still has trouble cracking the ruling clique, so she enlists her lazy but popular 23-year-old brother, Rob (David Arquette), to also enroll, so he can fulfill his dream of being a baseball star and, more importantly, help Josie gain acceptance by the in-crowd.

The absurdities don't stop there: When there's nothing to write about other than lousy cafeteria food, the big boys at the paper fix up Josie with a special lapel pin that serves as a camera. This way, they can monitor her doings and find the story they're still missing.

Along the way, the intellectually advanced Josie wins the admiration of Mr. Coulson (Michael Vartan), the hip, young English teacher. As the staff at the paper witness the growing attraction between teacher and student, they find their angle: Expose the teacher as a pedophile.

Barrymore, who also executive produced the film, seems right at home with the role of the nerdy newsgal, and she brings a surprisingly winning vulnerability to the part. Arquette, as her slacker brother, is also likeable. But everyone else involved is hindered by the utterly implausible script by Abby Cohn and Marc Silverstein, as well as Raja Gosnell's ("Home Alone 3") manipulative direction. Gosnell doesn't just suggest basic human emotions, he pounds you over the head with them.

The "moral" of the story appears to be noble: Josie finally reveals her true identity with a strident plea for all students to be themselves. But "Never Been Kissed" is inherently about just that, so the film's inane and calculated ending earns this latest installment in the teen-flick onslaught a barely passing grade.


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