By Gary Murray
Starring Kristen Bell, Jamie Lee Curtis, Sigourney Weaver, Odette Yustman and Betty White
Written by Moe Jelline
Directed by Andy Fickman
Running time 103 min
MPAA Rating PG
Selig Film Rating Cable
Some movies are formula films, a flick that is set up so broadly and simply that just about anyone can piece together the plot. Such is a film like You Again, a simple little tale of revenge that doesn't have any true surprises.
Kristen Bell plays Marni a go-getter of a young woman who blossomed after high school. She has recently been named VP of a PR firm and is going from California to NYC. Even though her life is great now, she had a miserable high school experience. The popular girl Joanna tormented her relentlessly, being a bully to a serious degree. Now, Marni gets to go back to her small California town to be a part of the wedding of her brother Mark (Victor Garber). She has never met the bride in the whirlwind of a romance.
Getting to her home town, she finds out that Mark is to marry Joanna, the mean girl from high school. She doesn't even know Marni. The fact that the tormentor doesn't even remember the victim enrages Marni. This supposedly sweet young girl is much more a minion of Satan than a frail little flower and must not become a part of the family. Marni makes it her goal to expose this woman's true colors. All Marni wants is a true apology from Joanna.
Joanna's aunt Ramona (Sigourney Weaver) is her only living relative and is planning to come to the wedding. When she shows up, the second plot point is revealed. It seems that Marni's mom Gail (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Ramona have a past. In a quick flashback, we find that Ramona and Gail had their own high school problems back in the 1970's, something neither has gotten over. Where Gail is a wife and mother, Ramona is a titan of the hotel industry with posh rooms all over the planet.
Now we have a cross generational, Hatfiend and McCoy, battle royal with each woman trying to get the better of their rival. You Again proposed to be a black comedy and wimps out when in should go to the jugular. Writer Moe Jelline wants everyone in the end to turn nice in a romantic comedy style when he sets up a different kind of film. This would have worked much better if he would have just let the venom flow across the printed page, letting each group of women truly destroy each other.
Kristen Bell is taking over that 'girl next door' charmer that Meg Ryan had a few years back. She is all sugar and charm even when being mean. She delivers her share of laughs while giving us growing up pathos. You Again is another small step in establishing her on the A-list of actors.
Odette Yustman has the hardest role, being the character with the most arc. She has to play the hard mean high school cheerleader, the tormentor, and the pleasant fiancee. Eventually, we learn all her motivations, a turn that comes across more believable than one would expect.
Both Jamie Lee Curtis and Sigourney Weaver give strong readings as the older generation rivals. They both pull off the bitterness of long held grudges. Each just works off the other, giving laugh after laugh.
Two of the secondary performance are just gold. Betty White plays Grandma Bunny and just steals every moment she is on screen. Her comic timing is still pristine, taking simple lines and turning them into roaring laughs. Every glance just eggs-on snickers. Kristen Chenoweth as Georgia, the wedding planner/dance instructor is another sparkling performance. Her bits of bubble and pop just endears while still getting a solid reaction with the audience. She just commands the dance lesson scene with a Las Vegas style.
In a refreshing and unexpected turn, the men of You Again are almost an afterthought. Each is just here, not taking more that a slight notice in the story line. This is a rare woman's picture where the men are background items.
You Again is just fluff, more like a bon-bon than a meaty film. The idea that nobody gets through high school without being scathed is as true today as it was decades ago. Here's the problem–the forgive and forget part. The people who tormented me in high school are still jerks and even at this late stage in life and I still will never forgive them. Call me a bitter old man but I totally agree with everything Marni does in the film but without the Hollywood remorse. You Again is a tale of revenge that doesn't deliver the revenge part.