Not since John Hughes' Pretty in Pink' has a movie about the joyous angst of being a teenager been so aptly expressed as in Raja Gosnell’s Never Been Kissed (1999); a rather delightful romantic/comedy that satisfies everyone’s wish fulfillment for the atypical ‘what if’ scenario. What if you could go back to an embarrassing moment in your own life and rectify it all to the good? Josie Geller (Drew Barrymore) is about to be given just such a chance when her newspaper editor, James Rigfort (Gary Marshall) assigns her to go undercover and do an exposé on what teenager’s really think about life, drugs, sex and so on.
One problem; Josie was the most unpopular gal in high school back in the day. But that was then. This is…well – it looks like more of the same. After wiping out on the school steps and blending with the nerdy crowd, Josie finds herself reverting to her former self the second time around. She seems entirely ill-equipped to handle the onslaught of negativity from the in-crowd on campus.
The situation is further complicated when Josie realizes she is starting to fall in love with her English teacher, Sam Coulson (Michael Vartan). Josie’s brother, Rob (David Arquette) attempts to diffuse the situation for his younger sister, by first pumping her full of confidence, then enrolling in high school himself to relive his glory days as a baseball jock and all around popular guy. The screenplay by Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein nimbly covers just about every juvenile vignette from our collective playbook of pre-adult life and effortlessly melds the more important romantic ‘coming of age’ message to the narrative's underbelly, even as it gradually peels away the layers of corn until what emerges is a sort of Sleeping Beauty awakening story with a genuine heart of optimism at its core.
The magic that is supposedly Drew Barrymore has always escaped this reviewer. But she is wholly believable as the awkward swan who, until this moment, has waddled through life more like a goose. There's a precocious sincerity to her performance that can neither be quantified nor understood unless you see the film. Barrymore takes us on that ride through the blossoming stage of life. Yet she does so without being overly dramatic or relying on the remedy of kooky humor to sell this believability to the audience.
Of course, all would be for not in Josie Geller's fairytale if it were not for the ideal prince. Michael Vartan proves to be just that, lending intelligence to his pencil thin role as the object of Josie's affections. David Arquette is refreshingly obtuse as the ‘has been’ in life who can still rock the house at his alma mater. Sweetness without the saccharine, Never Been Kissed is recommended viewing. It’s a feel good movie with more than a few moments of sublime realization.
Fox Home Video appears to be up to its old tricks where Blu-ray mastering is concerned. Never Been Kissed is not a true 1080p re-scan but a regurgitation of the previously issued DVD transfer bumped up to a 1080p signal. The image tightens up, although not enough to notice any real differences between the Blu-ray and the previously issued DVD when the picture is in motion. Color fidelity marginally improves. Flesh tones look more natural on the Blu-ray while appearing just a tad too orange on the DVD. Contrast is okay. But fine details that ought to be present, quite simply are not!
This is a middling effort from Fox and one consumers ought to avoid purchasing if the quality of Fox's Blu-ray output (and catalogue Blu-ray titles everywhere for that matter) is ever to improve. A message has to be sent to the studios distributing these movies and the way consumers can send such a message is by boycotting anything less than 100% fidelity being sold to them as good faith product. The cold hard facts are that Blu-ray remastering takes time and money. Having said that - if it's good enough to go to the hi-def market, then it deserves both those considerations - PERIOD!
Truly, there is NO good reason (other than cost cutting) to put out substandard Blu-ray transfers, especially for a film that is barely 13 years young! Why can't the powers that be at Fox get that through their penny pinching minds?!? The big improvement noted on the Blu-ray is in its DTS audio that absolutely blows away the old 5.1 Dolby Digital track on the DVD. Then, as is now, the only extra feature included is a theatrical trailer. The movie is advertised as "a comedy with class" and that's certainly true enough. The Blu-ray's slipshod treatment is classless and disappointing! Not recommended!
FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)