One might make the mistake of thinking I only watch and discuss action films based on the majority of reviews I've put out there. This isn't the case, as I enjoy a variety of different movies, and, much like this ongoing series of "Better Than They Told You" reviews, I want to provide an alternative to common assumptions and provide my views on Get Over It (2001), a smart teen comedy that was much maligned and has been largely forgotten.
Berke Landers (Ben Foster) is head over heels in love with Allison McAllister (Melissa Sagemiller), so of course she's going to dump him and set the plot in motion. This is, after all, a romantic comedy. So begins the "getting over" part of the film's title.
Right from the start there's something a little different about Get Over It. When Allison dumps Berke we see him sucked into a special effects vortex reminiscent of Vertigo (1958). The symbolism is obvious: Berke's life runs down the drain with this announcement. We're introduced to Berke's own sense of hyperbole and rather wild imagination as well as establish exactly where his arc begins. Taken on its own, maybe this wouldn't seem like a huge leap for a teen film. However, it goes further.
Allison hands him a cardboard box full of his belongings, a strange collection of sporting equipment, and Berke begins his homeward slog. The synthesized strains of Captain and Tenille's "Love Will Keep Us Together" erupt as Berke takes the first steps of his long trudge. Suddenly, out of Allison's garage, emerge musicians. A cute pop star (Vitamin C) sways and sings behind him in what turns into a full-blown one-take musical number, complete with dancers in iconic costumes and even a marching band. I hate spoiling all of this, but I think it's important to relate the tone of this film, and this scene sets everything up beautifully.
We are introduced to Berke's mom and dad (a fantastic pairing of Swoosie Kurtz and Ed Begley, Jr.), television sex therapists who take the notion of being "cool parents" (and seemingly little else) very seriously. They aren't simply residents of cloud cuckooland; they are in charge of its tourism board. They are loving, doting, and supportive, if in their own very strange and Kinsey-esque ways.
Berke's friends Felix (Colin Hanks) and Dennis (Sisqo) attempt to distract him and cheer him up as he contemplates ways of getting Allison back. We meet Felix's little sister Kelly (an adorable Kirsten Dunst) and her foul mouthed best friend Basin (Mila Kunis).
Shane West plays Striker, a conceited former member of a hit-and-fade boy band who affects a phony British accent in his bag of tricks for seducing teen girls. Striker sets his sights on Allison in yet another visually interesting setup that I'll avoid discussing.
In short order we learn that Allison and Striker intend to try out for the school play (musical Shakespeare based around A Midsummer Night's Dream, something the film itself is already loosely following), and Berke hatches a plan to do the same in an effort to win back her heart. He enlists the help of Kelly, who harbors an obvious crush on our hero and eagerly agrees. This also establishes the film as a pseudo-musical itself with cast members singing and dancing, mostly within the context of the stage play, but occasionally bursting into song at other points.
It's here we meet the scene-stealing Dr. Desmond Forest Oates, a preening, image-consumed egomaniac whose need for affirmation from his pet students is rivaled only by his death grip on the details of producing the best damn high school musical imaginable. Martin Short has great skill at playing horrible people, and with his manic performance I found him infinitely quotable and believable.
I feel as though I've given a lot away at this point, but at the same time I know I'm scratching the surface. Each scene is enjoyable and most are extremely funny. The scenes with Berke are relatable for anybody who was a heart-broken teen while at the same time the bizarre and hilarious.
It seems obvious to me that the director was a fan of the "Savage" Steve Holland film Better Off Dead (1985). So many notes seem to parallel or even might be dead lifts from the earlier film. It holds true, though, good artists copy, great artists steal, and everything in Get Over It is uniquely its own.
Watching the bonus features on the DVD I discovered that this film was originally intended for an "R" rating and, while I can appreciate the director's frustration with being hamstrung, this is one case where a sharp "PG-13" pushing the envelope is actually better than what would have been a very soft "R." The jokes are plenty raunchy enough, the language has enough salt to be flavorful, and several of the edits that cut it back to the lower rating actually made lines funnier than they would have been otherwise.
I re-watched this on Netflix rather than my trusty DVD and the movie's bright colors and sets look even better in HD than they did in the initial home video release. The visuals pop with outstanding set and costume designs. The film's original songs don't tax the cast's abilities and fit in well with the student musical motif.
As is typical for me in these reviews, I don't really understand the hate critics felt toward it in its initial release. It plays with conventions, offers a satisfying conclusion, and, at least for me, provides all sorts of humor. When I mentioned that it had a Rotten Tomatoes score of 44%, my wife said, "do movie reviewers hate fun?" I think she summed it up nicely.