Amanda Bynes, John Schneider, Sarah Paxton, Matt Long
After watching Amanda Bynes in the summer smash "Hairspray," I had high hopes that Hollywood had finally figured out how to use the beautiful, perky and comically gifted young actress after a string of decent performances in sub-par films such as "She's the Man," "What a Girl Wants" and "Big Fat Liar."
Unfortunately, while Bynes herself shines in "Sydney White," a family friendly take on "Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs" set in the collegiate greek system, "Sydney White" is a remarkably mediocre film that rises only slightly above mediocrity largely upon the strength of Bynes's spirited performance and ability to find the humor and sweetness in Chad Creasey's disappointing script.
In "Sydney White," Bynes heads off for college at her late mother's alma mater only to find herself considered not quite sorority girl material. Rejected by her late mother's sorority, she ends up staying in a rather humble dwelling with the campus's seven biggest dorks.
Sydney White and the seven dorks?
Actually, "Sydney White" does have its fair share of chuckles and manages to accomplish practically everything that "Bratz: The Movie" failed so miserably in achieving. Sure, practically every moment in "Sydney White" is predictable, but Bynes makes it quite watchable with an energy, enthusiasm and natural screen presence that makes "Sydney White" a delightful, if slight, way to spend a Saturday afternoon with the family.
When Sydney White and her seven dorks plot to steal the student body presidency away from Rachel (Sarah Paxton), the evil bitch sorority chick who rejected Sydney, the film picks up pace a bit and, of course, director Joe Nussbaum and Creasey throw in the obligatory romance with vacant prettyboy Prince (Matt Long).
Director Nussbaum, who came to our attention with the critically acclaimed indie "George Lucas in Love" and then followed it up with "Sleepover" and "American Pie: The Naked Mile", either realizes he has rather slight material here or simply doesn't trust his cast to pull it off. Nussbaum paces the film poorly, minimizing its comic potential and dropping far too many potentially comic bits before they've really played out.
Despite the slight material and micro-direction, Bynes manages to shine yet again and, perhaps, sets herself up for an even greater leap into more adult-themed films as the 21-year-old actress matures. John Schneider is solid as Sydney's working class father, and Jack Carpenter steals his scenes despite an underwritten role as Sneezy/Lenny.
Amanda Bynes is a refreshing young talent...she hasn't seemed to lose her way on the road from child to adult star, unlike many of her celebrity peers, and she's managing to avoid full-frontal nudity (at least in front of webcams). Most importantly, she's remaining true to what made America fall in love with her in the first place. While the result hasn't yet measured up to a cinematic success, with the exception of her supporting role in "Hairspray," Amanda Bynes continues to be one of Hollywood's brightest young stars.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic