Drew Barrymore is completely adorable in this completely adorable story about Josie, a former high school ugly duckling, now a copy editor for the Chicago Sun Times. She wants to prove herself as a reporter and her first assignment is to go undercover as a high school student to report on what is going on in the lives of teenagers.
She finds that more than proving herself as a reporter, she wants to use her adult competence to triumph over her hideously humiliating memories of being unpopular (her nickname was “Josie Grossie”) and find a way to fit in. But it turns out that the skills it takes to succeed as an adult have nothing to do with the skills it takes to succeed in high school. When she does find a place with “The Denominators,” the school’s brainy (nerdy) crowd, she is happy. But pressed by her editor to fit in with the cool kids, she relives her old experience of frustration and embarassment.
Meanwhile, her brother Rob (David Arquette in his most appealing performance), has found that the skills that made him very successful in high school have been of no use since. Wanting to help Josie — and to return to the place where he was happiest — he, too enrolls in the high school, and is not only immediately dubbed “cool” by the entire student body, he is able to make Josie cool, too.
Josie is at last noticed by the most popular boy in school, and is thrilled when he invites her to the prom. And she begins to fall in love with her handsome English teacher. Her entire office is mesmerized by her daily adventures, which they watch through a hidden camera.
All of the predictable complications ensue, and all are resolved in a finale that is more romantic than persuasive, but fun.
This is the best of the recent spate of teen-centered comedies, with a genuinely sweet and romantic story and some perceptive comments about life in high school. It also has a heroine who believes in waiting for the right person to kiss, even if that wait takes quite a while.
Parents should know that there are some sexual references (Josie’s friend at the office brags about her sex life, but envies Josie’s views on love) and that in one scene Josie unknowingly eats some hash brownies and as a result behaves very foolishly. A “sex talk” is played for humor, and involved putting condoms on bananas. A young girl offers to have sex with Rob. He is clearly tempted, but knows that it would be wrong, and he turns her down. In general, however, this movie’s values are of self-respect and of making decisions about sexual involvement based on love and maturity.
Families who see this movie should talk about why high school is such a clique-ish stage of life, and what kids think will be different in college and afterward. Why did Josie want so badly to meet the limited standards of high school popularity? Why did her friends at work envy her? Why didn’t she tell the truth earlier?
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Barrymore’s “Ever After.”