If you ever saw the trailer for this movie, you might remember this quote, “Everybody has a secret… Duke wants Olivia who likes Sebastian who is really Viola whose brother is dating Monique so she hates Olivia who’s with Duke to make Sebastian jealous who is really Viola who’s crushing on Duke who thinks she’s a guy…” Can you believe this teen film was actually based on the Shakespearean comedy, Twelfth Night? So here’s the rubdown…. Viola (Amanda Bynes) is a soccer nut. She loves the game more than anything. She comes from a well-to-do family, and her mother, Daphne (Julie Hagerty) is a traditionalist, and wants Viola to give up her silly sport and become a lady. There is a debutante ball coming up, and Daphne desperately wants Viola to be presented to society.
School has started again, and at the Cromwell School, the girl’s soccer team has been cut due to budget concerns, plus the fact that not enough girls signed up for the new season. Viola insists that she and her teammates try out for the boys team, but the boys and their coach are having a testosterone fest, and just laugh it off, including Viola’s boyfriend, Justin (Robert Hoffman). Viola goes home in a huff, and runs into Monique (Alexandra Breckenridge), her twin brother, Sebastian’s (James Kirk) girlfriend. Monique is pretty much the kind of girl Daphne wants Viola to be. Haughty, pretty, and the perfect debutante. After running into her mother on the way in, and scoffing at her choices of frilly evening gowns, Viola goes upstairs to find her brother trying to sneak out of the house through the window. Even though he is to start at a new school, Illyria, within the week, his band has a slot at a music festival in London. He asks Viola to get things set up for him at Illyria while he is away. The fireworks go off in Viola’s head, and Sebastian’s sudden departure gives her a golden opportunity to play the game she loves and prove that she has what it takes to beat the boys at Cromwell. She tells her mother that she is going to stay at her dad’s house for a couple of weeks and hang out with Monique to learn what it takes to become a real debutante.
With some help from her friends, Viola pulls off a passable drag switch, and is now enrolled at Illyria as Sebastian, and immediately goes out for the soccer team. The coach, Mr. Dinklage (Vinnie Jones) is a classic British footballer, and even though Viola makes second string, she is on the team. She does her best to make do in her awkward situation with her new roommate, Duke Orcino (Channing Tatum), and her new teammates. They all think “Sebastian” is a little weird, but they like her game style. She has lots of charisma and is well liked by headmaster Headmaster Gold (David Cross), and other students like Eunice (Emily Perkins), Toby (Brandon Jay McLaren), and very well liked by Olivia (Laura Ramsay). Olivia also happens to be the girl Duke is crushing on. Another student, Malcolm (James Snyder) is suspicious about “Sebastian” and knows there is more than what is going on on the surface.
After some quick maneuvering by Viola’s friends at the local pizzeria to make “Sebastian” look like a ladies’ man, the boys on the team rethink their original assumptions about him, until Monique shows up. Viola blatantly dumps her before the patrons, doing her brother a big favour, since he wanted to break up with her anyway. After this victory, Duke decides spending some time to help his shorter teammate make first string might worth some after hours coaching. Thus Viola weaves a web far more tangled than any that Malcolm’s pet tarantula, Malvolio, could ever make, and it makes for a postmodern adaptation of Twelfth Night that even The Bard could appreciate. I’m sure we all would, and always will.