At the movies: Pi­anist para­dox

True life is dif­fi­cult to rec­og­nize here, de­spite a game cast.

Los Angeles Times - - Calendar - Glenn Whipp

“Ge­nius Within,” “You Again,” “Wait­ing for ‘Su­per­man’ ” and more re­views.

To con­sider the baf­fling, would-be ro­man­tic com­edy “You Again,” it’s best to use the words of one of the movie’s male char­ac­ters, who sput­ters at one point: “I don’t pre­tend to have the slight­est clue about the way it works in the girl world. Quite frankly, it fright­ens and con­fuses me.”

That this line was penned by a woman, first-time screen­writer Moe Jelline, adds a cer­tain level of irony, of course. You fig­ure that most women — and men too, if they’re older than, say, 15 — know a thing or two about the girl world. What’s ac­tu­ally im­pen­e­tra­ble? The girl world found in crass come­dies such as “You Again,” movies that re­duce women to sad clichés and a uni­form level of bad be­hav­ior that would ap­pall the cast mem­bers of “Jersey Shore.”

The film’s premise has a ker­nel of prom­ise: High­school nerd Marni (Kris­ten Bell) grows up, loses the glasses and zits, gains a sweet job and com­pe­tent hair­style, and puts the past be­hind her. Then she finds out her brother (James Wolk) is mar­ry­ing Joanna (Odette Yust­man), a.k.a. “Satan’s Spawn,” a.k.a. “the girl who ru­ined her life in high school.”

And in the Small World Depart­ment, it turns out that Joanna’s beloved Aunt Ra­mona (Sigour­ney Weaver) en­joyed a high­school ri­valry with none other than Marni’s mother (Jamie Lee Cur­tis), cre­at­ing a par­al­lel track for two gen­er­a­tions of women to play out petty grudges and prat­fall their way through the mud and muck to the in­evitable group hug.

Di­rec­tor Andy Fick­man (“Race to Witch Moun­tain”) em­pha­sizes the phys­i­cal com­edy, em­ploy­ing an ag­gres­sively up­beat score that func­tions as a wink-wink laugh track. He does try to keep the au­di­ence guess­ing about Joanna’s na­ture, al­though that may have more to do with in­de­ci­sion and in­com­pe­tence than the de­sire to pre­serve a sense of mys­tery.

Not sur­pris­ingly, Weaver and Cur­tis com­pletely up­stage their younger coun­ter­parts, both women gamely try­ing to add a bit of di­men­sion and be­liev­abil­ity to their char­ac­ters’ in­se­cu­ri­ties. Betty White turns up in a small role, but of the sup­port­ing play­ers, it’s Kyle Born­heimer, play­ing Joanna’s jilted ex, who makes the best im­pres­sion. His de­liv­ery of a re­hearsal din­ner toast that ref­er­ences Air Sup­ply ranks as one of the most awk­ward (and funny) movie mo­ments of the year. Maybe this guy could shed some light on the girl world.

cal­en­dar@latimes.com

Mark Fell­man

FAM: Jamie Lee Cur­tis, front, and Kris­ten Bell.

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