Variation (Barely) on a Theme

The interchangeability of Get Over It is a large part of its point

Get Over It

Now playing at multiple locations.

The current state of American teen romantic comedy can be tough to bring into focus. It may not even really be a genre but rather one big ber-movie, a pulsating -- listlessly pulsating -- mass of Freddie Prinze Jr. and Julia Stiles and Kirsten Dunst and Jodi Lyn O'Keefe and Jesse Bradford and Rachael Leigh Cook and Adam Grenier and Marla Sokoloff and Katherine Heigl and Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Leelee Sobieski and Eliza Dushku, with some nonwhites in supporting roles, some slumming character actors as parents and teachers, and a marketable soundtrack, all swirling around and then reappearing in the cineplexes every few weeks under a new, forget-it-as-soon-as-you-hear-it title: Drive Me Crazy or Boys and Girls or Bring it On or Down to You or Whatever it Takes or She's All That or the current case in point, Get Over It.

One can hypothesize, however, that these phenomena are, in fact, individual movies. With concentration, it's even possible to discern that some of them are, on their own terms, good movies (Bring It On), and that others, even on their own terms, suck (She's All That). Get Over It, directed by Tommy O'Haver of Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss, is somewhere in the middle.

The film shares a screenwriter, R. Lee Fleming Jr., with She's All That, and a star, Kirsten Dunst, with Bring It On. It gains a lot more from the latter than from the former. The script is just another template variation, but Dunst has been remarkable ever since she was a little kid in Interview with the Vampire, and her explosive exuberance in Bring It On was both hilarious and likable. She works in a much lower key in Get Over It, but the likability remains. Her leading man here, Ben Foster, also manages to make his lovesick glumness pleasant instead of annoying company.

The plot has Berke (Foster) getting dumped by his lissome girlfriend, Allison (Melissa Sagemiller), who takes up with an odious refugee from a boy band (Shane West). Dunst plays Kelly, the younger sister of our hero Berke's best friend (Colin Hanks, son of you-know-who). Berke, hoping to get another shot at Allison -- his pathetic serenade of her with Elvis Costello's ballad didn't do the trick -- decides to try out for the school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, in which Allison is playing Hermia, the jerk is playing Demetrius and Kelly is playing the spurned Helena. Kelly coaches Berke on his audition, and he gets a part: He starts out as a spear carrier, but, through wacky circumstance, and to the surprise of no one born earlier than last month, he ends up in the meaty role of Lysander. He and Kelly get closer offstage while he continues to try to win Allison back, and, well, you know the rest.

Allowing for shifts in taste and propriety, Get Over It is similar in content and approach to one of the Beach Party movies of the '60s. Where it has its boy-band parody, for instance, 1964's Bikini Beach had Frankie Avalon as the Potato Bug, an envious spoof of the British Invasion pop musicians. Where the Beach Party romps had such veterans as Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff and Buster Keaton and Keenan Wynn as guest stars, Get Over It has Ed Begley Jr. and Swoosie Kurtz as Foster's comically lenient parents; Carmen Electra, very briefly, as a dominatrix; and Coolio, even more briefly, as himself, among other cameos.

As cinema, Get Over It is at roughly the Beach Party level, too. That is to say, it's incredibly insipid, but it isn't offensive or wretched to sit through. It seems to have a decent heart. Still, Dunst's charm notwithstanding, the only earthly reason to be glad the film exists is for the supporting performance by Martin Short as the drama teacher who's directing the play. This dementedly self-impressed stage-hound, who smiles through his agony at the cosmic injustice that he's not on Broadway, is a creation nearly worthy of Short's glory days on SCTV. Besides, he gets to say, to an assistant who's been smacked in the crotch: "Keep icing your front bum!" No movie with that line can be all bad.

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