Sydney White’s mother died when she was young, so she was raised by her plumber father and the construction crew he works with. This left her ill prepared for her encounter with the sorority her mother was once a member of.
Sydney White is the latest Amanda Bynes vehicle and I still can’t figure out who they are geared for. When you see movies with Lindsey Lohan or Hilary Duff you know it is usually a fluffy, sappy teenage girl-fest. However, with Amanda Bynes there is something more there. There is something honest and endearing about her and she comes across as the least fluffy girly-girl of them all. Dare I say Amanda Bynes might be the fairest of them all?
Sydney White starts with the titular character working with her father in the construction business. This is all set up to show she is very much the tom boy. She is preparing to leave for college and has decided to enter into her mother’s former sorority, Kappa Phi Nu. Her wholesome and honest attitude quickly comes into conflict with the horribly clichéd sorority cliques that she is thrust into. Instead of having glamorous dresses, her suitcase is filled with her favorite comic books. Her idea of a perfect dream present would be a Stanley 22 Ounce AntiVibe Framing Hammer. You get the picture.
The main problem with this movie is that everything is cut-and-dried. The head of the Kappa Phi Nu sorority is a girl named Rachel Witchburn (Paxton). When we meet her, she is insulting and over-pampered. She seems to be almost worshipped by the girls who wish they could be her. There is an Internet fad on campus that is called “Hot or Not.” The idea is that students would vote on who they thought was the hottest students on campus. The girl ranked number one, unsurprisingly, is Rachel Witchburn. Witchburn also serves as Student Council President and has hopes of building a new Greek Life Center. Her ex-boyfriend is the extremely popular Tyler Prince (Long). Prince no longer cares about Witchburn and soon sets his eyes on Sydney White. Conflict is born.
Actually, there is not much conflict in this movie. Tyler Prince is manipulated by Witchburn, but it is never hard to win back the trust of Sydney. Tyler Prince is too good of a good-guy. He works in a soup kitchen, feeding homeless and takes Sydney there for their first date, because she is “the only girl he has met who would appreciate it.” Sydney gets kicked out of the sorority in wondrous fashion, ripping off her borrowed dress in front of the crowd and walking out after telling everyone what she thinks of the system. This aids her in moving up the list of “Hot or Not” and challenging Witchburn for the crown. Witchburn develops ways to humiliate her, but nothing is ever severe enough to make you worry about Sydney. She is just too strong a character to be challenged by these girls.
We have Sydney White, the Prince and the wicked Witch(burn). All we need know is the seven dwarves. For the seven, we get the Seven Dorks who live in the Vortex, called so because it “sucks in losers.” This is where the movie rises and becomes a really fun flick. Terrence (Jeremy Howard) is Doc, the 6’3” science geek who graduated years before but sees no reason to stop learning. Gurkin (Strong) is Grumpy, a blog writer who believes he should stand up to fight the system. Spanky (Levine) is Happy, who wants nothing more than to have sex with someone – or a number of someone’s. Jeremy (Hendershott) is Bashful, and can only talk to others through a puppet named The Skooze. Lenny (Carpenter) is Sneezy, a hypochondriac. Embele (Bonner) is Sleepy, a foreign exchange student who has never gotten used to the time change. George (Pantoja) is Dopey, a character who might be a little retarded.
The dork’s home, the Vortex, is on the ground where Witchburn wants to build her Greek Life Center. It is also where Sydney White goes to live when she leaves the sorority. The main plot of the film is Sydney convincing the dorks to stand up and fight back. The only way to take back their college is to run for the Student Council and give the University back to the non-Greek students. The movie becomes a light hearted Animal House with a little P.C.U. thrown in. It never reaches the levels of those two movies, but it has more charm than most movies in its genre today.
The true success in the movie rests on the pretty shoulders of Amanda Bynes. This girl is the real deal, carrying movies like What a Girl Wants and She’s the Man to a higher status then they would have ever achieved without her (although Channing Tatum was great in She’s the Man as well). I would consider her the female equivalent of Ryan Reynolds, giving great performances regardless of the movie. She does not have to shoulder the complete weight of this movie, though. While the character of Tyler Prince is a boring cliché, Matt Long gives a confident performance that makes the character remain likeable. He will do well in roles such as this in the future.
The most enjoyment comes from the characters of the dorks. These guys clicked in a way that matched up to any group of misfits – whether it was Animal House or Revenge of the Nerds. They could not have put together a better group of young actors to play these roles. I have been a Danny Strong fan since his days on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and in this film he pretty much plays the same role as in that show. Arnie Pantoja has the least experience of any of the actors but he just knocked his character out of the park. His performance as the mentally suspect George was just fantastic and he stole every scene he was in. Jack Carpenter is the dork that gets the most screen time and does fine in his role, but all six dorks were perfect.
Yes, the story is simplistic with little-to-no true conflict. However, the movie deserves an audience. The acting was great throughout the movie and there were very nice touches in the times that the director tried to subtly pay homage to Snow White (when Witchburn looks into her laptop to prove she is still “Hot” the reflection mimics the mirror on the wall). Amanda Bynes is once again the best thing about the movie she headlines, but she is joined by a great group of dorks that made this a fun, good-hearted and enjoyable movie.
The movie looked (2.25:1) and sounded great (English 5.1).
There are a lot of features on the DVD but they are all short and to the point. That does not take anything away from the enjoyment of watching them. There is a Gag Reel that is no different than any other gag reel. There are deleted scenes that include commentary by the director. They are decent but it gets really old to have Nussbaum tell us before every one of them it was removed to speed up the movie.
The Original Dork is a feature about director Nussbaum. He spends the last half of the feature solving the Rubik’s Cube. Sydney and Her Prince is a feature about Bynes and Long and what the rest of the cast thinks about them. Meet the Dorks was one of my favorite features and introduces each of the dorks and shows that they are not that dissimilar to their characters.
Kappa’s Forever is a featurette that focuses on Sara Paxton and her character. The Skooze is kind of stupid and just shows the puppet annoying people. The last feature can be paired up with the Meet the Dorks feature. Welcome to the Vortex takes us on a tour through the set that was the Vortex and we are given the tour by the dorks. It just shows the house while all the dorks ran around like complete idiots. It was great! There is also a trailer.