Sydney White Movie Review
Sydney, as we learn, is a tomboy, hanging out with her father's (John Schneider) construction crew. Since the death of her mother, the blue collar gang has been her only family. When it's time to head to college, Sydney decides to attend her mom's old university, and pledge her sorority. As a legacy, she's a shoo-in for acceptance. But that doesn't stop snobby, selfish "sister" Rachel Witchburn (Sara Paxton) from targeting our heroine. Jealous of Sydney's genial disposition, her friendship with BMOC Tyler Prince (Matt Long), and her natural good looks, she devises a plan to undermine the pledge. When her strategy works, our poor little girl ends up in the rundown firetrap of the campus nerds. Known as "The Vortex," it's the home to seven dorks, collegiate misfits who help Sydney get back at her snooty Greek tormentors. (If you haven't caught on that this is a post-pubescent reinterpretation of Snow White yet, let this be your explicit notice.)
Reminiscent of Disney's fanciful '60s school comedies featuring Kurt Russell as Dexter Riley, Sydney White is a wholesome, heartfelt confection that shouldn't really work in our sullied, cynical age. We post-millennial moviegoers are just too smart to be taken in by a retrofitted fairytale, too smug to find the adventures of a good-natured gal and her close-to-stereotyped geek buddies engaging or rewarding. And yet that's exactly what happens during the light-as-a-summer breeze narrative. We find our guard dropping like so many fall leaves, left open to absorb another fluffy-as-a-baby-bunny plot point.
Credit goes to George Lucas in Love director Joe Nussbaum and writer Chad Gomez Creasy for managing the mawkish and avoiding the pat. This is the kind of story that could easily go astray, overloaded with cloying intentions and groan-inducing wish fulfillment. But thanks to a smarter-than-average script, and a great deal of filmmaking flair, Sydney's adventures appear believable. Since much of the material is geared toward those already familiar with Ms. Bynes, it's up to outside influences to broaden the approach. In that regard, Nussbaum and Creasy acquit themselves admirably.
As does the cast. Aside from our star, standouts include Paxton as the "witchy" blond bim-baddie Rachel. Long is also excellent as the too-good-to-be-true frat love interest. While his "feeding the homeless" hunkiness may be a bit much, this actor finds a way to make it work. Some of the best moments, however, come from the seven social outcasts living in the Vortex, with Jack Carpenter (as the nice nebbish Lenny), Danny Strong (the angry blogger, Gurkin), and Freaks and Geeks' Samm Levine (horndog dope Spanky) proficient at turning clichés into real characters with an engaging effortlessness.
Yet none of this would matter if not for a strong performer in the lead, and Sydney White clearly indicates that Amanda Bynes is a superstar in the making. Still young enough to get away with such merry marginal movies and yet poised to blossom into something far more substantial, her onscreen presence is believable -- and bankable. It bodes well for her future... and the fun you'll have with this pleasant piffle of a motion picture.
Mirror mirror on the gym wall.