September 24, 2007

Snow White In The 21st Century

Print More

Once upon a time there lived a girl named Sydney White. Directed by Joe Nussbaum, this modern-day adaptation of Snow White commences in the usual way: girl’s mother dies, girl is forced to do manual labor. However, in this case she wears flannel and wields a hammer, as a worker in her father’s plumbing company. The film opens with Sydney (Amanda Bynes) going off to college at Southern Atlantic University. Her greatest aspiration is to pledge her late mother’s sorority, Kappa Phi Nu. Upon her arrival, she meets Dinky (Crystal Hunt), a blonde, big-haired southern belle who has already established her top five outfit choices for their first rush event. Sydney, having been raised by construction workers, has not had much experience with girl world, and consequently sets off for the sorority house clad in a dress borrowed from Dinky and a pair of Converse sneakers.

Kappa Phi Nu is similar to that other cinematic sorority, Delta Nu of Legally Blonde. Sydney’s otherness is demonstrated by her hair color: she’s the only brunette in a sea of blonde-haired Barbies. Through the pledging process she comes to find that maybe the Kappa house is not the best place for her. She ends up being denied her sorority pin, and publicly humiliated at the Kappa pledge class debut party. As a last resort she seeks refuge in the Vortex house, a haven for misfits at SAU. The Vortex, a dilapidated firetrap with faulty plumbing, is so named because it is purported to be a “vortex that sucks in losers.” It is at the Vortex that Sydney picks up her Seven Dwarfs, or in this case, her Seven Dorks.
When Rachel Witchburn (Sara Paxton), Kappa President and head of the Student Council, threatens to tear down the Vortex in order to construct a Greek Life Center, Sydney and her Seven Dorks are moved to act. In an attempt to save their home, they campaign to unseat Rachel and her gang of Greeks on the Student Council by appealing to all of the outsiders at SAU.

At the big debate, Sydney gives a stirring speech defending dorks to an enthusiastic response. The stage is stormed by the marching band, the goths, the ROTC and some hula dancers (who I’m assuming represent the oft overlooked Polynesian club) who are ready to proclaim their nerdiness. Thrill as a representative of every college student stereotype steps up to list the reasons why they are truly dorks at heart; gasp in shock when a member of Kappa Phi Nu, dressed in her pink mini-dress best, stands up and admits that she too is a dork.

The message of the movie may be a positive one, but it is difficult to feel anything too deep with the melodious stylings of Jesse McCartney playing in the background. It is nonetheless empowering to observe such a display of courage and perseverance on the part of an underdog. There is also the perfunctory chic-flick romance between Sydney and Tyler Prince (Matt Long); much of the comedy of the movie is derived from the painfully obvious characterization of this new-age prince charming. One of the most laughable scenes comes when Sydney and Tyler enjoy an intimate picnic atop the soup kitchen where Tyler volunteers, as a computer-generated sunset reflects warmly on their faces.
As for drama, we have the conflict between Sydney and her nemesis, Rachel, as well as the constant threat of pyrotechnic disaster caused by the random fires and combustions that occur regularly at the Vortex house.

The pinnacle of the struggle between Sydney and Rachel comes when Sydney takes Rachel’s place as #1 on SAU’s Hot or Not List. This is a serious blow, and Rachel must use her soothing words to mitigate its effects, chanting “Prada, Gucci, Chanel” like a mantra.
The silliness of the movie comes as no surprise, however, and those seeking a meaningful cinematic experience will most likely want to look elsewhere. It accomplishes what your average chic-flick purports to aim for; there are a few laughs, some eye candy and your standard happy ending.