A newspaper reporter is forced to relive her awkward past when she goes undercover at a high school.
The latest in a seemingly endless line of non-slasher adolescent angst films, Never Been Kissed is a peachy teen comedy that may be formulaic right down to its high school prom shenanigans but nonetheless wins you over with its eternally perky nature. The ace up its sleeve is Drew Barrymore giving the kind of career-best performance that could liven up even the most humdrum of light comedies.
Barrymore is Josie Geller, the former Billy No-Mates of her high school (we see her lank-haired, brace-wearing former self in cringeworthy flashbacks). Now an anally grammatical, somewhat dowdy 25-year-old copy editor, she is eager to turn reporter, something which happens quite by chance when she is sent off on an undercover investigation of high school culture. In order to fulfil the brief, Josie has to disguise herself as a student, enrol in the local school and get with the in crowd.
When her initial attempts - a frankly ill-judged makeover and use of apparently cool lingo - fall flat, her brain-free brother (Arquette), who just happened to be the most popular person in school, steps in to help out. And then there's the small matter of Josie's new English teacher (Vartan), who finds himself on morally dodgy territory when mutual attraction rears its head.
Barrymore is remarkable here, given that she is essentially required to play three roles: the buck-toothed high schooler, the grown-up cool girl and an awkward, shy 25-year-old. She's ably backed by a host of quirky supports - the increasingly underrated Reilly as her stressed editor, Shannon's lascivious colleague and Sobieski's class misfit - while Vartan is clearly a leading man in the making.
And while the film itself doesn't offer up anything that hasn't been seen a million times before, it is endearing stuff, punctuated by some genuinely hysterical moments (the coleslaw-eating sequence has to be seen to be believed) in between the inevitable schmaltz. But if you can suspend disbelief long enough to assume that Barrymore could pass for 17, then such quibbles are minor by comparison.
Endearing stuff punctuated by some genuinely hysterical moments.