In this inoffensive variation
on John Hughes’s frenetic
Cinderella stories, April (post spring break and postcollege acceptance season) is the perfect time to upend the established social order. When the most popular girl in school (a vamping, foot-stamping Jodi Lyn O’Keefe) dumps her brainy, sensitive jock boyfriend (Freddie Prinze Jr.) for an obnoxious MTV star (Matthew Lillard, in a dead-on Puck impersonation), the stage is set for a cruel, Pygmalion-style bet. The spurned jock vows to transform the “scary, inaccessible” class dork into the next prom queen in six weeks.
Of course, the game would be a lot tougher if the victim (Rachael Leigh Cook) wasn’t a Winona Ryder look-alike, complete with quavering voice and killer bod. It’s never quite believable, either, that the heroine’s sudden social ascent is a great thrill for every other unpopular student. She’s a poor, motherless waif with only one friend (male), so it’s a mystery, rather than a triumph, when this loner knocks them dead at the prom wearing a Dior-style prom dress and Audrey Hepburn do. Amid all the cameos (Anna Paquin, Usher, Lil’ Kim), only Prinze, who has the ethereal, gentlemanly quality of a young Anthony Perkins, gets enough screen time to really make an impression.