It is not fair to judge all films by the same standards. Judging a new hip-hop album by the same standard as a concert symphony would be equally pointless (though admittedly amusing to read).
So when one sits down to watch a teen comedy, a certain set of expectations are a definite order. The academy will not likely be handing out nominations for any of the work done on Sydney White, but the film’s target market will find some of amusement, albeit cheap, with the movie.
The increasingly popular tread of making “modern fairy tales” continues with Amanda Bynes as the title character, a less than subtle play on Snow White. Children will chuckle and their parents will roll their eyes at the many references the film makes to the classic story.
White is a tomboy, raised by her father and the workers in his plumbing company, White was never the typical girly girl. Even so, she dreams of joining the sorority her late mother belonged to in college. But the modern sorority is led by Rachel Witchburn (Sara Paxton), who is only concerned with maintaining the elite image her position on the school council has given her. Being cast away, White finds comfort in the friendship of seven outcasts, finds herself falling for charming frat boy Tyler Prince (Matt Long), and fighting to save the school from the hold of the Greek.
So the villain’s name is Witchburn, the love interest’s name is Prince, and there’s even a poison apple (though it’s an infected Apple computer) and a magic mirror (a MySpace page dedicated to showing who the “hottest” girl on campus is) — clever, huh? The seven dwarves have been replaced by seven dorks, who reside in a nearly-condemned house for students who don’t fit in with any particular group (or so the movie implies). Together, White and the seven dorks realize that accepting people from all walks of life is the right thing to do, and they need to spread that message over the campus by running for student council.
As with most films in the genre, Sydney White is likely best enjoyed with a suspended sense of disbelief, and patience with the cheesy situational humor. As with most fairy tales, the characters are rather flat; this would be more forgivable if the film’s message was not one of accepting diversity. While screaming the virtues of acceptance and looking beyond the surface of individuals, the film also makes its point using characters that are largely walking stereotypes. Though the writer can be applauded for including characters from different sexual orientations, social, economic, and religious backgrounds, they also stereotype those same characters in a way that can be quiet demeaning (e.g., a transgender individual is credited as “Danny the Tranny”).
The result is weak, and even by the standards of teen comedies, Sydney White falls short. A few cute jokes are not enough to make it a memorable entry in the world of teen comedies, but perhaps enough to warrant renting if this is your kind of movie.