The makers of _Never_Been_Kissed_ expect the audience to buy a number of
1) Sexy starlet Drew Barrymore is an unattractive loser...
2) ...and a _virgin_ by circumstance, to boot.
3) Co-star David Arquette plays Barrymore's _younger_ brother.
4) A newspaper reporter is assigned undercover duty in a high
school not to pursue an existing story, but to find the
Yet not only do we swallow all this, we eat it up. And that's because of
the considerable talents of Barrymore. As I mentioned, it's a stretch to
have this glam gal play a dork. But the gifted Barrymore is up to the task
as Josie Geller, a lonely 25-year-old copy editor at the
_Chicago_Sun-Times_ whose first job as a reporter is to go undercover in a
high school and find a story. Not only does this present Josie with the
opportunity to pursue her dream career but a chance to erase her miserable
memories of high school, where her less-than-popular ways earned her
unflattering nickname of "Josie Grossie." It's hard to imagine Barrymore
being remotely considered gross, but she entirely convinces in both the
flashback scenes where she sports stringy brown hair, pimply makeup, and
braces; and as the better-groomed but still frumpy--with the attitude to
match--Josie. The character's nerdiness also gives Barrymore the chance to
display a heretofore unseen flair for light physical comedy.
The script by Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein is nothing if not formulaic.
In addition to the predictable touchstones of Josie's predictable personal
and professional redemption, the wacky younger sibling (Arquette's Rob),
and the nerdy student (Leelee Sobieski) with whom Josie identifies while
undercover, there's also her dream of finding romance with a guy--or, at
the very least, a "real" kiss (hence the film's title). When young,
intelligent literature teacher Sam Coulson (Michael Vartan) enters the
scene, there's no mistaking how everything will eventually turn out. But
by the film's climax, I was surprised at how invested I was in Josie and
her dream, due in no small part to Barrymore's natural rapport with the
audience. So likable is she that we're willing to overlook the somewhat
discomfiting fact that Sam would be attracted to someone he believes to be
But Barrymore is not the only person onscreen who makes an impression;
there are some colorful supporting performances by Arquette (even if he in
no way looks like he could be younger than Barrymore), Molly Shannon (as
Josie's libidinous co-worker), and John C. Reilly (as Josie's boss). That
said, there is no doubt that _Never_Been_Kissed_ belongs to Barrymore and
that if it weren't for her delightful presence, the film would not be, to
paraphrase the tagline, "a thing worth waiting for." (opens April 9)