1 1/2 stars (out of 4)
With a promising setup and bankable cast, the new Disney family flick You Again might have been a decent lightweight romantic comedy, as its promotional bumph and trailers have led us to believe.
No such luck. A laugh-free script that’s underscored by a nasty mean streak — about revenge and retribution for long-ago high school sins committed by a fetching bully (Odette Yustman) on a hapless geek (Kristen Bell), who has morphed into a beautiful and successful public relations executive — makes it almost impossible for anyone to get a footing, let alone inspire a cackle.
Traumatic though high school is for many teenagers, it seems the heroine in this mess, Marni (Bell) hasn’t been able to ditch the painful baggage, despite her fresh-faced beauty and rising fortunes in L.A.
When she is summoned home for her brother’s wedding and learns too late that his bride-to-be is her high-school nemesis, the raven-headed vixen cheerleader J.J. (Yustman), she is determined to extract an apology for past crimes, only to be thwarted by J.J.’s apparent cunning.
In Marni’s absence, J.J. has won the hearts of her parents, overplayed by Jamie Lee Curtis and Victor Garber, and her grandmother, rendered by a bewildered Betty White.
As wedding plans wind up, J.J.’s position is reinforced by the sudden arrival of her aunt and surrogate mother (Sigourney Weaver).
She’s a hotel-chain mogul who, it turns out, has never overcome high school pain inflicted by her one-time best friend, Marni’s mother.
The script, by Moe Jelline, piles on psychic sores and insufferable coincidences one after another, and in an effort to reach some kind of resolution — among the platitudes and excess verbiage that passes for dialogue, we get lots of nonsense advice about mistakes humans make and how to fix them.
Director Andy Fickman (Race to Witch Mountain) drags his characters through a sideshow of desperate devices, including a tedious karaoke event, a dish-hurling cat fight, a hideously overdone dance instruction routine, a full-dress tussle in a pool, and two or three surprise cameo appearances. None of it’s funny.
In fact, the only performance worth its screen time is what comes off as a bit of improv by Kyle Bornheimer, playing J.J.’s jilted ex, whom Marni has invited to the wedding rehearsal to spite her rival. His drunken musical toast stands out as You Again’s one genuinely original bit of business.
Greg Quill is a movie critic for The Toronto Star.