Whatever It Takes
Many films have borrowed from Pretty In Pink, but few have ripped it off quite as baldly (or badly) as Whatever It Takes, which marks a hideous nadir in the current teen-sex-comedy cycle. Clunkily integrating odd bits from Cyrano de Bergerac alongside its liberal theft from just about every teen comedy of the past two years, the film casts Shane West as a humble everyteen whose infatuation with a buxom cheerleader type (Jodi Lyn O'Keefe) causes him to overlook his gorgeous best friend (Marla Sokoloff). In his zeal to win over O'Keefe, West agrees to help a dim-witted jock (James Franco) woo Sokoloff in exchange for Franco's help in wooing O'Keefe. So thoroughly generic that its movie poster should consist of a solid white background with the words "Teen Sex Comedy" emblazoned in plain black letters, Whatever It Takes is a dismal exercise in formulaic cliche-mongering that's clueless, amateurish, and never funny. The recent Drive Me Crazy boasted an almost identical premise, but what set it apart was its ambiguity regarding high-school social roles: Although clearly siding with the outcasts, it took pains to humanize its popular, socially adept characters. The popular characters in Whatever It Takes, however, are such obnoxious cretins (O'Keefe's character seems mildly retarded) that there's never any doubt as to who will end up with whom. Furthermore, in protagonist West, Whatever It Takes asks audiences to root for someone who would set his best friend up with a lecherous, worthless cad and demean his loyal best friends, all in pursuit of a transparently heinous and vapid woman. Like far too many movies of its ilk, Whatever It Takes climaxes at a prom, and the event's Titanic theme is wholly appropriate: Like that doomed ship, the film is an unmitigated disaster.