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©2001–2014
Dustin Putman


Dustin's Review
The Hot Chick (2002)
2 Stars

Directed by Tom Brady
Cast: Rob Schneider, Anna Faris, Rachel McAdams, Matthew Lawrence, Eric Christian Olsen, Maritza Murray, Paige Peterson, Michael O'Keefe, Melora Hardin, Matt Weinberg, Megan Kuhlmann, Leila Kenzle, Robert Davi, Jodi Long, Sam Doumit, Tia Mowry, Tamera Mowry, Alexandra Holden, Ashlee Simpson, Lee Garlington, Angie Stone, Adam Sandler, Michelle Branch
2002 – 101 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (for crude and sexual humor, language, and drug references).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, December 14, 2002.

While one may be funnier than the other, or more memorable, anyone walking into a Rob Schneider vehicle should have the sense to know what to expect. Based on quality and the overall laugh quotient, "The Hot Chick" places squarely in between 1999's hugely entertaining "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo" and 2001's mediocre "The Animal." It is an admittedly by-the-numbers affair, but garners some hearty and unexpected laughs through the machinations of its premise.

Written and directed by Tom Brady and co-written by Schneider, the film is the latest in a long line of body-switching comedies, in which characters take on the physicality of someone else through some sort of mystical occurrence. In this case, the victims are snooty high school princess Jessica (Rachel McAdams) and grubby crook Clive (Rob Schneider), and the switcheroo occurs when each puts in a matching earring dating back to 50 B.C. When Jessica wakes up in Clive's body, she is understandably freaked out by the added hair, new private parts, and thirtyish appearance. Jessica is aided in her desperate quest to reverse the spell by her longtime best friend, April (Anna Faris), all the while realizing what a conceited person she used to be, and setting out to make things right for everyone whose life she made miserable.

The opening twenty minutes of "The Hot Chick" are unpromising, at best, setting up a disposably empty, teen-targeted yarn filled with grating, mean-spirited characters. Once the body-switch comes into effect, the pacing and amusement gradually improve until a well-meaning and rather sweet conclusion takes over. For each awkwardly over-the-top bit (an innocent sleepover pillow fight turns into a WWF Smackdown when Jessica uses her newfound muscles on her friends), there is a joke that does succeed (Jessica's predicament of using a public urinal for the first time). At its center is a valuable, if simplistic, moral, and three characters who become endearing (Jessica, Jessica in Clive's body, and April).

When the movie is happy to just be dumb fun, it takes off best of all. A subplot involving Jessica's African-American friend, Keecia (Maritza Murray), who is embarrassed by her positively smothering Asian mother (Jodi Long), is uproarious, while topical jabs at Winona Ryder and child-molesting priests are surprisingly ballsy. An extended cameo from Adam Sandler (2002's "Eight Crazy Nights") as a pothead antique seller is also less obvious than expected, while the standout turn from Jodi Long (1993's "Striking Distance") is not to be missed.

Introducing a possible semi-lesbian romance between Jessica (in Clive's body) and April is provocative, but doesn't have the courage to follow through in a satisfying manner. The same thing goes for the relationship between Jessica and her devoted boyfriend, Billy (Matthew Lawrence), whom she has trouble confessing her gender-bending secret to. Meanwhile, Jessica's kid brother, nicknamed Booger (Matt Weinberg), spends his days cross-dressing. The undercurrents of homosexuality running throughout "The Hot Chick" are not always handled as honestly as they could be, but it is amazing that they are there at all in such a commercially viable, youth-oriented flick.

Rob Schneider is a genuine comic talent, and plays Jessica as a sympathetic and girlish young woman with real intelligence hiding behind her temporarily hairy, manly exterior. Schneider could have gone for the cliched version of what a teenage girl acts like, and at times does, but often opts for building depth within the character. In her first major feature film role, Rachel McAdams is a definite find, who plays three separate characters, each building multiple dimensions with not much screen time (stuck-up Jessica at the onset, a wiser Jessica at the end, and the unkempt, criminal Clive). And Anna Faris (2000's "Scary Movie" and 2001's "Scary Movie 2") shines as steadfast, loving best friend April, evoking the comic timing of a pro and the giddy naturalism of a star.

For all of its themes and moralistic points, at heart "The Hot Chick" is an inconsequential trifle. Director Tom Brady makes sure never to get too serious or too deep for too long. His central goal is nothing more than to deliver a fun movie to the target demographic of 13 to 22-year-olds, and that is fulfilled by the end with a lot of heart and a reasonable handful of solid laughs. "The Hot Chick" is no more than just that, but, sometimes, that's enough.

©2002 by Dustin Putman

Dustin Putman

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