Friday June 16, 2000
"Boys and Girls," a likably thoughtful romantic comedy, suggests that as we enter the new millennium the dating game is getting tougher by the second, especially among the best and the brightest. So self-conscious and ultimately just plain scared are Freddie Prinze Jr.'s Ryan and Claire Forlani's Jennifer that they are in danger of succumbing to total paralysis.
Jennifer and Ryan did not get off to the best of starts, when, as kids, they happen to be seated next to each other on a plane. Ryan and Jennifer are both smart and opinionated, and quickly clash, with her telling the boy he's ugly as her parting shot. They later cross paths in a large L.A. high school, where Jennifer ends up dismissing Ryan as dumb. Wouldn't you know that the first person Ryan, whose goal is to become a structural engineer, runs into at UC Berkeley's Sather Gate is Jennifer, a Latin major.
This time things are different. It's as if Jennifer looked at Ryan for the first time, not for his looks (which are just fine) but for his intelligence. She's involved with a rock musician, and Ryan has a girlfriend but she's off on a distant campus. They spar a bit, but when the rocker dumps Jennifer, she looks to Ryan's shoulder to cry on.
A friendship of opposites blossoms: Jennifer is spontaneous, direct and hasn't a clue as to what she'll do with her Latin beyond a post-grad sojourn in Italy (and even there, Latin isn't of much use nowadays). Ryan, ever the engineer, believes his life can be as carefully designed as the Golden Gate Bridge; it seems significant that Ryan is unaware that its building did not proceed without snags or loss of life. Even so, he becomes a sympathetic and concerned friend to Jennifer.
Romantic involvements come and go in Jennifer's life, and Ryan even manages a desultory relationship with a forthright electrical engineer ("The Blair Witch Project's" Heather Donahue). As time goes on, Jennifer values Ryan increasingly as her key source of stability and security. He becomes, as she puts it, her very best friend in the entire world. As a risk-taker in romance, she's been hurt so often she would never let anything jeopardize her hard-won friendship with Ryan. But what to do if they at last fall in love? Andrew Lowery and Andrew Miller, the screenwriting team who call themselves the Drews, have brought more depth and complexity to romantic comedy than is usually the case. It pays off in Forlani and Prinze's luminous portrayals under the well-paced and perceptive direction of Robert Iscove, who recently directed Prinze in the teen comedy hit "She's All That."
While Forlani shows us the bedrock honesty that underpins Jennifer's quicksilver temperament, Prinze manages to reveal the warmth and charm within Ryan's button-down, often-clenched personality. Amanda Detmer is Jennifer's sweetly neurotic roommate, and Jason Biggs, whose career skyrocketed with "American Pie," is Ryan's even more neurotic roomie, who hasn't a clue to his own identity as he tries desperately to score with girls. Biggs' shenanigans are often credibility-defying outlandishness, but he's so skilled a comedian that he provides sharp, lively relief to Ryan's resolute seriousness.
"Boys and Girls" makes good use of the Berkeley campus and environs but no more than a tourist's view of San Francisco; still, we have to be grateful that Vancouver isn't being passed off as the Bay Area (as it was in "Romeo Must Die," among other examples). "Boys and Girls," a sure-fire date night movie, proves to be more than that and represents a career boost to all its young people on both sides of the camera, especially Forlani, a real dazzler.
Boys and Girls, 2000. PG, for sexual content. A Dimension Films presentation of a Punch 21 production. Director Robert Iscove. Producers Jay Cohen, Lee Gottsegen, Murray Schisgal. Executive producers Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, Jeremy Kramer, Jill Sobel Messick. Screenplay the Drews (Andrew Lowery and Andrew Miller). Cinematographer Ralf Bode. Editor Casey Rohrs. Music Stewart Copeland. Costumes April Ferry. Production designer Marcia Hinds Johnson. Art director Bo Johnson. Set decorator Suzette Sheets. Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes. Freddie Prinze Jr. as Ryan. Claire Forlani as Jennifer. Jason Biggs as Hunter. Amanda Detmer as Amy.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times