By Joseph McAleer
Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) — The phrase "best friends forever" (BFF) takes on a whole new meaning in "You Again" (Disney/Touchstone), an entertaining, multigenerational comedy in which grown-ups find it hard to leave the dramas — and traumas — of their teen years behind.
Amid the resurgence of teen angst and unresolved conflicts, the film offers refreshingly positive messages about the importance of family, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
Twenty-something Marni (Kristen Bell) seemingly has it all: looks, confidence, and a dream job. But appearances are deceiving; Marni flies home for the wedding of her brother, Will (Jimmy Wolk), only to discover that he is marrying Joanna (Odette Yustman), the girl who constantly terrorized her in high school.
In flashbacks, we learn that Marni was a "Class 1 Geek," and that Joanna was the self-proclaimed warden of the "prison" she called grades 9-12. Marni relives the ridicule she thought she had left far behind. "High school was a horror movie," she says. "This wedding weekend is the sequel."
Eight years have passed since graduation, and Joanna is now a respected nurse and pillar of the community as well as a beloved future member of Marni’s family. Joanna claims not to remember Marni, but Marni is not convinced. She sets out to prove that people do not change. "Who you are in high school determines who you are for the rest of your life," Marni intones.
It seems no one can escape high school, not even the older generation. Marni’s mother, Gail (Jamie Lee Curtis), discovers that Joanna’s aunt, Ramona (Sigourney Weaver), is her student-era best friend-turned-rival whom she hasn’t seen in decades. Though content in her role as family matriarch, Gail grows to resent the twice-divorced hotel heiress Ramona.
Both actresses enjoy hamming it up with sparring matches that recall scenes on the primetime TV dramas "Dynasty" and "Dallas" — a parallel reinforced when their shared high school sweetheart, Richie (none other than Patrick Duffy), turns up.
Then there’s Grandma Bunny, played by the ubiquitous Betty White, who has issues of her own. In addition to flirting with every younger man in sight, Grandma needs help putting in her dentures, an incident that provides one of the film’s gross-out moments.
Beyond the catfights, dance competitions, cheerleading demonstrations, karaoke and wedding planning, "You Again" takes time to offer solid advice on forgiveness. "Everyone deserves a second chance," Gail tells Marni, urging her to accept the past and move on. "We are our experiences. They made you into the woman you are today."
Though directed with a light touch by Andy Fickman ("Race to Witch Mountain"), so much is going on in "You Again" — what with dishes being hurled through the air and characters falling into swimming pools — that viewers may sympathize with Gail’s husband, Mark (Victor Garber), who throws up his hands and exclaims, "I’ve not the slightest clue how things work in the girl world."
The film contains mild slapstick violence and some double-entendres. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
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McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service. More reviews are available online at www.usccb.org/movies.