If there’s one thing to be gleaned from the Betty White renaissance of the last year—besides confirmation that everyone enjoys salty old ladies—it’s that if you work hard and long enough at something you do better than anyone else, you’ll earn not just respect, but love. White has been in the business a long time, and seen as many ups and downs as any veteran out there. And it’s not as if the ups were handed to her. Other performers would have made some of her Golden Girls lines, to choose one example, ring like tin. She’s great at what she does, and you can hear the instincts of a pro seizing on just the right delivery in You Again when, speaking of muscle relaxants for her back pain, she says, “One of those babies, and she’ll be able to taste sunlight.” Funny on paper, it isn’t, but White makes it work.
Still, even the best performers can only do so much to elevate mediocre material. In the long run, good or bad, the material always wins. So while White, Kristen Bell, Jamie Lee Curtis, Sigourney Weaver, Victor Garber, Kristin Chenoweth, and other reliable actors do their best with You Again, they can’t do much beyond shining some bright spots on a dull surface. Bell stars as a former teen nerd turned successful PR agent who returns home for her brother’s wedding, only to find he’s marrying the cheerleading bully (Odette Yustman) who tormented her in high school. Yustman claims she doesn’t remember Bell, but Bell suspects she’s hiding her old self behind her good-girl act. Meanwhile, Bell’s mother (Curtis) discovers that Yustman’s aunt is her high-school best-friend-turned-enemy (Weaver), now a successful hotelier with the money and airs to match her profession.
Broad hijinks ensue, all of them pretty dull and not particularly funny. (One involves Bell ending up covered in mud and ant bites.) They’re seldom actively unpleasant, however, apart from some nasty subtext about how women who choose careers end up without family, and vice versa. Mostly it feels like a between-gigs gig, the sort of thing talented actors take to keep working. And while it’s disappointing that Weaver and Curtis can’t find better material, and that a talented, versatile actress like Bell seems stuck in the purgatory of assembly-line rom-coms, maybe everyone here is thinking long-term. Keep working, and the highs will balance the lows, and with time, they’re sure to love you.