Slap Her...She's French Review
Hmmm...the title is the thing. Slap Her...She's French could not have arrived at a more inconvenient moment as far as international relations were concerned. Despite Le Monde stating that "We are all Americans now" after the events of September 11, the US and France are barely on speaking terms and whilst one doubts that Bush and Chirac have watched Slap Her...She's French - the former cheering along with the European stereotype, the latter grumbling into his coffee - this is up there with the French/Freedom Fries story. However, whilst Slap Her...She's A Shallow, Cheerleading Texan Airhead doesn't have quite the same ring to it, it's closer to what the film tries to be and should Chirac ever look for close to ninety minutes of daft entertainment away from the negotiating table, he might find a few things in here to smile about.
Starla Grady (McGregor) is a student at a high-school in Splendona, Texas and is the girl most likely to achieve...well, everything. She's the anchorwoman on the school television news channel, a beauty queen at the annual Beef pageant, girlfriend to the quarterback of the school football team and captain of the cheerleader squad, known as the Hornettes. Grady is also blonde, beautiful and rich. To clinch the beauty-pageant crown, Grady promises to take in Splendona's first ever French foreign-exchange student, Genevieve LePlouff (Perabo) who arrives at the airport as an awkward, glasses and beret-wearing plain Jane largely ignored by the population of Splendona High who remain blinded by Grady's retina-scorching aura of success. However, as Grady allows her visitor to share a tiny amount of the limelight, the cunning LePlouff moves in on Grady's family, boyfriend and captaincy of the Hornettes. Will Grady be able to recapture her place as darling of Splendona or, more to the point, will she even want to?
At heart, it's an updated version of All About Eve, Joseph L. Mankiewicz's 1950 film about an aspiring actress attempting to ingratiate herself into the life of Margo Channing, an actress famous for her performances on Broadway. Replace Bette Davis and Anne Baxter with Jane McGregor and Piper Perabo, respectively, and Slap Her...She's French falls into place, mixed in with a little Bring It On and Drop Dead Gorgeous, most notably in the similarity between the performance here at the Beef Pageant and Denise Richard's version of Frankie Valli's Can't Take My Eyes Off You sung to a wheeled statue of the crucified Christ. If that makes it sound like filmmaking by committee, then it's probably not an unfair statement to make as it's likely that if you know your satirical teen movies then much of Slap Her...She's French will appear familiar. If a little messy at times, this mish-mash of influences works well, giving Slap Her...She's French a scattershot approach that ensures it is rather more endearing than would otherwise have been the case although, to be fair, Drop Dead Gorgeous took the same route by appearing as a spoof documentary on beauty pageants.
As for the unwarranted bashing delivered to our European colleagues, the title is completely misleading - the targets in this film are clearly the Texan communities on which Splendona is based, the same towns and cities that, should their populations even care to look beyond the Texan border, can see no further that Washington, California, Canada and Mexico. It is this parochial attitude that Slap Her...She's French targets most successfully with Starla and her friends Ashley and Tanner being shallow and brainless cheerleaders, proud of never having been outside Texas and whose boyfriend, Kyle (Czuchry), is a boorish jock rarely seen not eating. In fact, the only truly likeable characters are Ed (Ford), the photographer for the school paper originally from New York, and Starla's little brother, Randolph (James) who rejects the pride felt by the rest of his family in remaining ignorant, preferring to read Henry Miller's Tropic Of Cancer or Stephen Hawking's A Brief History Of Time at a football game. As the film progresses and Genevieve's intentions are made clear, the film is no longer a Texan's view of a citizen of old Europe, as Donald Rumsfeld would describe them, but old Europe's view of Texas.
What problems there are in the small moments that are briefly glimpsed but not expanded on such as the vodka that Starla's mother puts in her iced tea drunk throughout the day, the implied lesbianism between Ashley and Tanner and the video camera through which Starla's father views the world, which sets up a punch line that is never delivered. None of this is the fault of either Perabo and McGregor who are both attractive and sparky leads with McGregor, in particular, having a good sense of comic timing and a lack of embarrassment. Finally, as a bumbling French teacher helplessly attracted to his female students, Michael McKean does the best with what he's been given but this is a long way from This Is Spinal Tap.
The title is terrible but it covers up a small film that's fairly amusing throughout but is not really as dreadful as you might think. Sure, it's not great but it is funny and the ending contains enough warmth to bring a smile should the preceding ninety minutes have failed to produce one.
Slap Her...She's French has been anamorphically transferred in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and looks good, if unexceptional. Whilst the film can occasionally appear every so slightly grainy, one suspects that this is due to the film's relatively low budget ($10m) and the shooting style employed to give the film a more natural look..
The film has been transferred with a 2.0 Pro-Logic Surround soundtrack only but I suspect this is what it was originally issued with in the cinemas. The end credits do contain the Dolby Digital logo but there is no mention of DD5.1 or DTS surround sound.
In fact, the soundtrack is acceptable - it's clean, free of noise if a little quiet and there is good separation across the two front channels but the rear surrounds are only used sparingly.
Sadly, this is an example of Universal's poor attitude towards DVD now they are no longer associated with Columbia Tristar, with only the following extras:
Trailer (1m08s, 1.33:1 Non-Anamorphic, 2.0 Stereo): This is little more than a quick run through highlights from the film that all but gives away the ending.
Featurette (4m32s, 1.33:1 Non-Anamorphic, 2.0 Stereo): In being kind to this feature, it does contain interviews with both Perabo and MacGregor as well as director Melanie Mayron but, really, it's little more than footage that could have been shot by someone wandering around on set taping what was happening. However, being truthful, it's fluff.
This could have been made so much better had McGregor and Perabo contributed a commentary, which might have had the potential to be as entertaining as the Milla Jovovich/Michelle Rodriguez commentary on Resident Evil had the conditions been right. Sadly, however, Universal have not felt the need to offer consumers more than six minutes of bonus material. Otherwise, there are two trailers for forthcoming Universal releases.
It could have been a lot worse, really! And after first hearing the title, the woolly liberal in me so wanted to really dislike this film as yet more Francophobia but, damn it, I ended up quite liking it - lessons were learned, relationships blossomed and everyone who had a shot at redemption were so redeemed. I'm not prepared to say it's only for girls but I'd be suspicious if my testosterone levels remained steady throughout and I'm not just talking about the slumber party scene nor Piper Perabo's cheerleading/strip moves.
Sure, it owes Drop Dead Gorgeous and All About Eve credit but Slap Her...She's French comes out laughing, as did I and if you have room for a silly but fluffy little movie about stupid Americans, this is not bad...not bad at all.