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  Sydney White

Starring: Amanda Bynes, Matthew Long, Sara Paxton, Jeremy Howard

Directed by: Joe Nussbaum

Produced by: Clifford Werber, James G. Robinson, David C. Robinson

Written by: Chad Creasey

Distributor: Universal Pictures


     Sydney White feels far too artistically conflicted a cinematic experience than any ‘tween-targeted romantic-comedy has any right to feel. As I watched it, I felt as if I was witnessing a battle between two halves, each fighting for control over the tone and content of the entire picture. One of these halves offered exactly what I expected part of a movie called Sydney White would: a formulaic, estrogen-charged spin-off of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. The other, however, was a completely pleasant surprise: a zany, inventive, and funny vehicle by which Amanda Bynes was able to engage her likable talents. Unfortunately, the good-half of Sydney White is never able to establish dominance over the rest of the film. The end product is a movie that is somewhat frustrating given its noticeable embrace of convention, but far more invigorating than most other fare of this sort due to its plethora of inventive qualities.

     Bynes plays title-character Sydney White, a recent high school graduate heading off to Southern Atlantic University. Sydney is a likable, amiable, everyday girl (both conveniently and ironically portrayed by an actress as attractive as Bynes)—qualities thattantly make her a fish-out-of-water when she pledges her late mother’s sorority, Kappa. Sydney thought that the experience would bring her closer to the spirit of her mom, who always dreamed Sydney would join Kappa. However, pledging ends up making her completely miserable given Kappa’s elitist and air-headed policies. After a series of troublesome misunderstandings at Kappa’s pledge-reception, Sydney is kicked out of the group by sorority-leader Rachel (Sara Paxton), who has been out to get Sydney all along for flirting with her hunk of an ex-boyfriend, Tyler (Matt Long). After being taken in by a group of video-game playing, science-studying geeks who live in a rundown house at the end of Greek Row, Sydney decides to break Rachel’s grip over the SAU student-body. With her new roommates and love-interest Tyler in tow, Sydney enters dorky Terrance (Jeremy Howard) in the Student Council President race against interim candidate Rachel.

     Sydney White works best when it isn’t concerned with matters of plot. The most enjoyable moments of the film are those that allow Bynes free-range over loosely-defined material. The actress is effortlessly charming here and brings a much needed energy to the lead role, perfectly balancing the zany spunk of her character with a generally attractive and appealing quality that gains the sympathies of the audience. Bynes also has terrific chemistry with the cast of the seven dorks in the film; they share several scenes that had even me, the epitome of a cinematic cynic, laughing out loud. Not to mention, Bynes perfectly complements the evil of Paxton’s wickedly (and brilliantly) played Rachel.

     Despite its array of refreshing assets, Sydney White still follows a tired formula. If screenwriter Chad Creasy thought that creating a spin-off of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves was an original idea, he was deeply deluded. Sydney White’s storyline is as frustratingly generic as they come; its point-for-point embrace of its source-material and the romantic-comedy formula proves thoroughly uninspiring. Similar to recent indie Eye of the Dolphin, Sydney White proves disappointing mainly because the stunning strength of its lead performance is somewhat exploited by the tremendous weakness of its script. Still, the movie succeeds far more on the whole than most pictures of this sort usually do, and deserves to be recommended for this.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 9.1.2007


Sydney White is rated PG-13 and runs 107 minutes.

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