Boys and Girls

Anyone who’s ever had to manage a group of employees knows that while lazy, inept people may be damaging to your company’s health, it’s the energetic incompetents that can really do some damage. And dishonest employees are even worse. If Boys and Girls were on your payroll, you’d want to hand it a pink slip. This is a film that oddly manages to be vigorously monotonous – it tries so very hard but only annoys. And as far as honesty, be warned: the majority of the film’s trailer has nothing to do with the movie – it’s a scene that’s grafted onto the end of the film and shown during the credits.

The incredibly perceptive and unique message this film delivers: men and women sometimes have problems communicating. Stop the presses. Ryan (Freddie Prinze, Jr., She’s All That) and Jennifer (Claire Forlani, Meet Joe Black) first meet when they’re both about twelve. They instantly hate each other, which naturally ensures that they’ll eventually fall in love. Oh, she’s gorgeous and he’s a nerd – so add the Ugly Duckling plotline in there too. You now know enough to write the screenplay. But unfortunately, you didn’t – Andrew Lowery and Andrew Miller take the blame for that. And their script takes far too long to arrive at its overly familiar destination and makes too many stops along the way, leaving no cliche unturned.

The story slowly moves ahead in fits and starts, as Ryan and Jennifer keep encountering each other – in high school (she’s the prom queen, he’s the dork wearing the school mascot costume) then finally at UC-Berkeley, where most of the inaction takes place. They’re totally wrong for each other, of course – Ryan’s a Civil Engineering major, detail-oriented and regimented. Jennifer’s studying Latin and doesn’t have a plan. They’re each assigned the requisite quirky roommate – Ryan’s is wisecracking Jason Biggs (American Pie) while Jennifer gets perky Amanda Detmer (Drop Dead Gorgeous). What follows is a twentysomething When Harry Met Sally, with none of its appeal – any one of the vignettes of married couples from that film has more insight into how relationships form and work than is seen here. Director Robert Iscove (She’s All That) seems more concerned with showing off San Francisco scenery than with honestly dealing with why men and women treat each other the way they do.

Virtually nothing in the film rings true. There is no real dialog, just characters trading quips and making speeches. It never appears that anyone’s paying attention to anyone else or believes a thing they’re saying – everyone’s just hitting their marks and reading their lines. Ryan’s dorm room looks like it was furnished by IKEA or Pottery Barn, and Jennifer’s apartment would rent for about $2,000 a month – typical college accoutrements. At one point, Ryan and Jennifer decide to take a short walk at Berkeley and end up at Point Bonita, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge – a nice trick, since that’s on the other side of San Francisco Bay.

Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Claire Forlani are likeable enough performers, but here their characters are given silly things to say and made to look dumber than we suspect they really are. Jason Biggs and Amanda Detmer aren’t given enough screen time – their characters are certainly more interesting but they’re stuck with mostly reacting to someone else’s rant. Heather Donohue appears briefly, as one of Ryan’s interim girlfriends. It’s her first role since The Blair Witch Project, but she gives a performance so emotionally overboard that it makes one wish that she really had gotten lost in the Maryland woods.

– Bob Aulert