Unwaveringly arbitrary in nature, Robert Iscove's teenflick Boys and Girls approaches such niceties as construction and character motivation with a decidedly wanton shrug. Reunited with his She's All That star Freddie Prinze Jr. and emboldened by screenwriters Andrew Lowery and Andrew Miller (simperingly billed as "the Drews"), Iscove concocts a cat-and-dog romantic squabbler so garbled you'd need a centrifuge to sort things out. Prinze plays anal geekboy Ryan, whose friendship/romance with twitchy Ally McBeal knockoff Jennifer (Claire Forlani) is stretched over a decade and laced with vile faux-Seinfeld chatter. Iscove, however, ups the ante on the Drews' soulless word salad through blithely disjunctive editing and composition"romantic chemistry," we assume, occurs when the leads actually occupy the same shot. Undaunted by the movie fraying around him, Freddie discovers L.O.V.E. with lumbering gravity, even as Forlani devotes all her lid-fluttering, lip-scrunching attention to the horde of invisible bats that she seems to detect flitting about Prinze's head.
Potentially diverting costars are squandered: Blair Witch nostril-flarer Heather Donahue bitch-slaps unfaithful steady Prinze and skedaddles, Buffy's affable near-witch Alyson Hannigan has a less-than-cameo, and during one pointless interlude, yammering Amanda Detmer finds the kibosh immediately placed on her lust for roomie Forlani. Only Jason Biggs, renowned for making the dessert with two backs in American Pie, has any fun as Prinze's prevaricating roommate, snarkily disregarding any expression of the brothers-in-arms spirit they're supposed to share. Biggs ends up an audience surrogate, exclaiming, "I don't know what you want from me. . . . I don't know what anybody wants from me!" with the exasperation of one hopelessly adrift. Such thoughts occur long before Boys and Girls arrives at its (literally) flatulent denouement.
Get the Film & TV Newsletter
Stay up to date on the best new movies with our critics' latest reviews, interviews and trailers for the films coming to a theater near you each week.