“Sydney White” is a cutesy retelling of “Snow White,” but I believe its working title was “OMG! The Movie.” You can almost hear the squeals of 14-year-old girls as they soak up all the many things the movie does to pander to them.
Amanda Bynes — who still generally believes that the best way to react to a strange situation, comedically speaking, is to bug out her eyes in wonderment — is Sydney, a tomboyish college freshman whose mom died young and left her to be raised by her doting construction-worker father (John Schneider). Because Mom was a member of a particular sorority, Sydney feels compelled to pledge — and being a “legacy,” she’s more or less assured membership.
This doesn’t sit well with Rachel Witchburn (Sara Paxton), the head bimbo in the sorority of beautiful blond bimbos (OMG, they wear such pretty clothes!), who feels, quite rightly, that Sydney doesn’t fit in. Rachel’s “magic mirror” is a “Hot or Not”-type website, which reassures her daily that she is still fairest in the land. But this newcomer, this Sydney White — who shows up for college carrying only a backpack full of clothes and a suitcase full of comic books — is getting a little too popular for Rachel’s tastes.
Sydney is eventually cast out of the sorority house and flees to the Vortex, a dilapidated house at the end of Greek row where dwell seven dorks. She is friendly to geeks, of course, and is welcomed by them as a fellow outcast. And OMG, they have such cute personalities! One (Adam Hendershott) is really shy and speaks through a sock puppet. One (Danny Strong) is a grumpy blogger. Another (Jack Carpenter) is allergic to everything and hence “sneezy.” You get the idea.
The prince in all this is Tyler Prince (Matt Long), the student body president who — OMG! — helps feed the homeless in his spare time and has dimples (OMG!!) and serenades Sydney in the library (OMG!!!) and in one scene he’s even shirtless!!!! (OMG!!!!!!) Rachel thinks he should be hers; he likes Sydney instead; again, the idea, you get it.
The way Chad Creasey’s screenplay incorporates “Snow White” details into the story is sometimes clever (the “poisoned apple” particularly amused me), and there’s no question the film will push the buttons of the people it’s aimed at. I’m not one of those people, but that’s not why I didn’t enjoy the movie. It’s because the dialogue is mostly generic and the story is tedious, as if they took the framework of a fairy tale and just threw a leftover Disney Channel script on top of it.
For example, the romantic-comedy story structure requires that Sydney and Tyler not get together until the end of the film. If they kiss and start dating halfway through, you’ve got nothing to shoot for. The problem is, there’s no reason for them NOT to get together halfway through, other than a vague assertion by Sydney that she doesn’t like him — which is clearly false and which she has no reason to lie about.
The movie even manufactures a way for Sydney and Tyler to have a fight, when she thinks he was involved in a plan to tear down the Vortex and put up a building named for his and Rachel’s rich families. All he needs to do is explain that this is a misunderstanding of what really happened, but he does not. Instead, he waits three scenes before doing it — time enough for us to say, “OMG! He’s totally sweet and Sydney misses him!” Do you not see, 14-year-old girls, how you are being manipulated by a movie that doesn’t make sense?
I also question the validity of the Vortex being so run-down as the result of Tyler and Rachel spending all the university’s funds on the more popular Greek houses. I’m pretty sure it’s not up to the student officers to decide matters of funding and building maintenance. (OMG, shut up!)
The director is Joe Nussbaum, who directed the equally OMG-worthy “Sleepover,” as well as the “American Pie” DVD sequel “The Naked Mile.” As a college student himself, Nussbaum made the clever short film “George Lucas in Love,” which purported to show how Lucas’ real life inspired “Star Wars.” He was a wunderkind, the Next Big Thing … and now it’s “Sleepover” and “Sydney White.” Clearly he has had a spell cast upon him by a witch. When will a Princess Charming come along and rescue him?
C- (1 hr., 48 min.; )