On the surface "The Hot Chick" is not so hot: loud, vulgar and contrived, for starters. But beneath its crass veneer, this film, from Adam Sandler's Happy Madison production company, proves as provocatively subversive as his "Eight Crazy Nights." Its opening is a groaner, for it turns upon that shopworn device of a body exchange. In this instance, due to a pair of purloined earrings, Abyssinian BC artifacts possessing magical powers, Jessica (Rachel McAdams), a mean-spirited high school campus queen, finds herself trapped inside the body of an unprepossessing lowlife convenience store robber (Rob Schneider).
As it happens, the crook doesn't mind ending up in the body of Jessica, for the switch allows him to embark upon a lucrative career as a go-go dancer who brutally exploits customers and who poses as a streetwalker, mugging unsuspecting johns.
For Jessica, however, it's hellish. What is a girl to do, with the statewide cheerleading competition and the senior prom coming up, when she suddenly looks like Rob Schneider? The new Jessica takes into confidence her best friend, April (Anna Faris), and shares her bizarre predicament.
They first of all have to come up with explanations for Jessica's seeming absence, and Jessica in her new form manages to land a gig with her own father (Michael O'Keefe), a gardener, and a job as a janitor at her high school.
Because no amount of cosmetic trickery is going to pass the crook off as Jessica, "she" and April give up on that idea. This leaves Jessica coming across as an effeminate gay man, and it's easy to guess what kind of jokes are in the offing. But, before homophobia can set in, director Tom Brady and Schneider, who co-wrote the script, reveal the new Jessica, a sissified male, emerging as a gutsy stand-up guy who calls himself Spence. He's a veritable Mary Worth of wisdom, assuring Jessica's mother (Melora Hardin) that her husband still finds her desirable and showing acceptance rather than ridicule for Jessica's kid brother, who has gender issues of his own.
That Billy (Matthew Lawrence) and Jake (Eric Christian Olsen), Jessica and April's erstwhile football star boyfriends, find Spence's effeminacy threatening makes them look ridiculous and insecure.
In short, the filmmakers have sly fun with all sorts of gender-bending possibilities, suggesting that maybe there's something to be said for people accepting themselves and one another as they are.
Even so, April and a couple of Jessica's most trusted pals understandably start trying to figure out how to get Jessica back into her own body. Happily, the film's wind-up proceeds with more ease and dispatch than its opening.
Faris, who survived "Scary Movie 2," emerges as a young actress of much promise, and the same could be said of Rachel McAdams in her first sizable role. As for Schneider, he may be obnoxious and unhandsome, but he is, more important, talented and fearless, the driving force of this brash, not-so-predictable comedy.
'The Hot Chick'
MPAA rating: PG-13, for crude and sexual humor, language and drug references
Times guidelines: Satire of gender-bending attitudes mixed with extremely crude, broad humor; heavy on bodily function jokes but not mean-spirited, sure to offend some yet harmless
Rachel McAdams...The real Jessica
Eric Christian Olsen...Jake
A Touchstone Pictures presentation of a Happy Madison production. Director Tom Brady. Producers John Schneider, Carr D'Angelo. Executive producers Adam Sandler, Jack Giarraputo, Guy Riedel. Screenplay Tom Brady and Rob Schneider. Cinematography Tim Suhrstedt. Editor Peck Prior. Music John Debney. Costumes Alix Friedberg. Production designer Marc Fisichella. Art director Thomas O. Frohling. Set decorator Jon Danniells. Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes.
In general release.