Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:30 - Released 6/16/00

If Boys & Girls had been produced by veteran filmmakers, I would say it is well below average, but for the collective inexperience of its producers, it shows a flicker of promise. After all, it is only the second feature for the writing team of Andrew Lowery and Andrew Miller (credited together as "The Drews"), after their screenplay for last year's hardly-seen Dennis Rodman film Simon Sez. It is also the sophomore outing for director Robert Iscove (after tons of TV titles); his first feature film being She's All That. So you see what I mean. Quality-wise, it's spotty and predictable; Iscove makes some sloppy choices and his actors (Freddie Prinze Jr. and Claire Forlani) don't have what it takes to overcome them. But what I can't fathom is why the Drews chose to pattern their screenplay so closely after another film. Perhaps they thought that a younger version of When Harry Met Sally... would attract a younger audience. If that film never existed, this would be a passable romance; as it is, it looks more like a cheap ripoff.

I mentioned Forlani's resemblance to Barbra Streisand in my review for Meet Joe Black; it's even more distinct here. However, when we first meet Jennifer, and in fact when Ryan first meets her, they are both played by younger actors. Their first meeting is as young teenagers on a plane. They make a little conversation and neither is particularly impressed. When they meet a few years later at Berkeley, however (played by Forlani and Prinze), they form a friendship that will last through all four years of college. Just like Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal, they walk, they talk, they confide, they try to date other people, they talk to each other about these dates . . . but never become romantically inclined toward each other, presumably because their relationship is sparked by a spirited sense of competition and a hint of antagonism. They even have friends (in this case, roommates, played by Jason Biggs and Amanda Detmer), whose own romantic problems run concurrrently with theirs. I don't want to spoil the ending of this film, but I can say that it is different from the Crystal/Ryan vehicle: it takes place in San Francisco instead of New York.

All kidding aside, there are differences, and most of them underscore the superiority of the other film. The Drews' dialogue forces our friendly protagonists into some unbelievable conversations (the Prozac joke is the most innovative thing in the entire script, and it's only a few minutes from the end); however, it does improve toward the final reel, when Forlani actually seems to mean what she's saying. Prinze is lifeless as Ryan; one can understand why Jennifer isn't attracted to him. I can say one positive thing as a final note: I'm a sucker for a good dance scene, and this film has a great one. Getting spray-soaped, fully dressed, while gyrating to a hip synth version of "Car Wash" — it would be an expensive way to run a club, but it certainly works on film. ***

Copyright 2000 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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