Nell Bedworth (Samaire Armstrong) is a smart, awkward, “pencil-necked virgin” hoping to pass her interview to get into Yale. Her next-door-neighbour, Woody Deane (Kevin Zegers), is into loud hiphop, dates a cheerleader and wants to get a football scholarship to college. The two despise each other – until a completely arbitrary visit to an exhibit of Mayan artefacts (that are later described as ‘Aztec’) causes the two to wake up in the strangest of places: each other’s bodies.
It’s a magic formula that Hollywood trots out once every two or three years, but It’s a Boy Girl Thing is something of a modern take, in that it expects its tweenie audience to be okay with swearing and fascinated by anatomy. The first five minutes of the transformation are taken up with investigations of the two’s new genitals – post American Pie, nothing is worth being shy about (although the only real nudity is reserved for an all-girls shower-scene). Parents be warned: send the kids on their own or they’ll be embarrassed to have you next to them.
The rest of the film is more as expected – there’s a brief and mildly entertaining rivalry, in which Woody tries to lose Nell’s virginity (but chickens out), and Nell cries in public and gets a preppy centre parting. Then as the (un)reality of the situation dawns the two decide to help each other out: queue a training montage set to a pop-rock soundtrack.
Nell teaches Woody the joys of poetry (“So Shakespeare was a bender? Who would have thought it?”). Woody attempts to teach Nell to catch in time for the football game that he needs to get him into college. The film ends with a pat homecoming-dance in which Nell proves wearing nice clothes can make you happy and Woody turns out to be a nice guy.
But despite the film being squarely pitched at twelve-year-old misses interested in gum-chewing, short skirts and Zeger’s chest, this film is too much a boy thing. It’s about erections, male homosexuality and tits. In defiance of the reality of seventeen-year-old life it’s the males who are in charge here, chilling, two-timing and drinking, their girl counterparts joining in only because from the desperation to look cool. Nell is a wet blanket throughout; and although we’re watching a powerful girl hero for most of the film, the body-swapping means it’s a boy inside really. And despite attempts at narrative symmetry it’s the American football game that forms the emotional climax, while the poetry discussion is quickly sidelined.
It’s all tidy enough, pleasantly scripted and relatively charming, probably well-pitched at the modern world-wise teen. Sharon Osbourne puts in a fun cameo as Woody’s foul-mouthed but lovely mom (in constrast to Nell’s prissy and awful counterpart), and there’s a brief but touching subplot about the pair’s fathers. The two leads do a good job with the physical comedy; Zegers trotting around with his knees together and Armstrong swaggering and posing. But in trying to be honest it forgets to be funny, and in trying to be rude it forgets to be honest. In the end it doesn’t capture the agonies of school life the way Mean Girls or even Buffy did. Passable at best.