Jun 24, 2014

Review: Never Been Kissed (1999)

There's no shortage of easy to digest romantic comedies. Never Been Kissed is probably one of the easiest to digest movies I've ever seen, let alone romantic comedies. It actually treads on some controversial elements but never really commits to actually exploring these things in any depth. It's the romantic comedy for everyone.

The film could hardly be more formulaic or predictable if it tried. Writers Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein don't push any boundaries and there are exactly zero surprises. Does that make Never Been Kissed a terrible movie? Not really. Think of it as a Toyota Corolla. It doesn't offend anyone and it works just fine. Yes it's bland and boring, but it gets you from point A to point B.


Genre: comedy, drama, romance
Directed by: Raja Gosnell
Produced by: Sandy Isaac, Nancy Juvonen, Jeffrey Downer, etc.
Written by: Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein
Music by: David Newman
Running time: 107 minutes
Production company: Fox 2000 Pictures, Bushwood Pictures, Flower Films, etc.
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox, Filmes Castello Lopes, Hispano Foxfilms S.A.E., etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $25,000,000
Box office: $84,565,230 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Drew Barrymore, David Arquette, Michael Vartan, Leelee Sobieski, Molly Shannon, John C. Reilly, Jeremy Jordan, Jessica Alba, Jordan Ladd, Marley Shelton, Garry Marshall, James Franco, Denny Kirkwood, Marissa Jaret Winokur, Maya McLaughlin, Giuseppe Andrews, Octavia Spencer, Branden Williams, Cress Williams, Sean Whalen, Martha Hackett, Jenny Bicks, Katie Lansdale



Josie Geller (Drew Barrymore) works at the Chicago Sun-Times as a copy editor in what is a decidedly dull existence. She does good work but really wants to be a reporter. She lives alone with her pet turtles and passes her time knitting and crocheting. She gets the chance of a lifetime when her boss decides to randomly select her for an undercover assignment at a high school. She has to pretend to be 17 and pose as a student in order to find an interesting story. Unfortunately, her past as a bullied teenager comes back to haunt her while also attracting the attention of a certain teacher.


Is Never Been Kissed romantic? Not exactly but the attempts at it are a bit cute. Drew Barrymore when she doesn't seem like she's on the verge of crying, which is almost all the time, is the film's biggest strength. Josie Geller is actually an irritating character though because of her inability to have absorbed ANY street smarts whatsoever since her years in high school. It's a bit hard to sympathize with Josie but when you do it's not bad. The love angle almost gets creepy but quickly moves away from being actually creepy for real.

Is Never Been Kissed funny? It's definitely funnier than it is romantic. It's not laugh out loud funny but there are enough moments that deserve a chuckle or two. Probably one of the weirdest things about NBK is the very small role for James Franco. This was his first theatrical release film before getting his part in Whatever it Takes the year after. It's worth a chuckle just to see him playing one of the high school cool kids.

Josie Geller has trouble breaking into the cool girl group which she's been tasked to do since that's where all the real stories are. She used to be the nerd during her time in high school and nothing has changed in school at all since then. There are only cool kids, jocks, nerds and everyone else is a faceless nobody. The ways in which problems and conflicts that Josie finds herself in get resolved are too easy and convenient to really be taken seriously.  

The big reveal in NBK is disappointing and sudden. The conflict/lying aspect of course drives Josie's love interest away and we all know how it's going to end. Again, Never Been Kissed is not a terrible movie. It's simply following a well-established recipe book without any improvisation anywhere. It's the Toyota Corolla of movies. Inoffensive and generalized for everyone. 



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