The splendid Betty White can never be more appreciated than for her work in YOU AGAIN. Not because it is a clever film that provides a suitable framework for her exceptional comedic talents, but rather because those self-same talents provide such a blessed respite from the wretched mess in which she finds herself. White, ignoring the flailing script and misguided direction, is decidedly and triumphantly herself at all times, buoyantly gliding through the material with a delicate aura of ironic absurdity even when forced to work with a stale denture joke.
The film itself has many troubling aspects, not the least of which is its firm belief that high school is destiny. One may move one, but one may not grow up to any significant degree, even when the entire story pivots on that not being true. It is populated by people whose emotional maturity stalled shortly after puberty, and it assumes its audience is populated in similar fashion. The heroine, Marni (Kirsten Bell) is a pert and bubbly PR professional newly promoted to VP of her firm, and yet she is, despite that resume, not a grown-up. Instead she is the embodiment of what a 12-year-old imagines the perfect grown-up woman to be. Adorable, excitable, and looking very much like a Barbie doll.
When Marni learns that her beloved older brother, Will (James Wolk) is marrying Joanne (Odette Yustman), the girl who made her life miserable back in high school, does Marni take him aside and tell him? Of course not. Does she consider that her life has turned out well and do the adult thing and move on? Again, of course not. Does Joanna pick up right where she left off with tormenting Marni in high school because thats what a woman would do to the family of the man she adores? Of course. Do Marnis family notice? Once again, of course not. Do they, including Marnis dog, think Joanna can walk on water? Again, of course.
The premise that Will would not know the history of these two, that no one in Marnis family would know, that Marnis mother, Gail (Jamie Lee Curtis) would have no clue that her own high school nemesis, Ramona (Sigourney Weaver) is Joannas aunt and only living relative, makes no sense considering they all grew up in a town the size of a postage stamp. It posits communication technology less effective than that found before the Pony Express existed, and a group of people, one whose very livelihood is based on effective human interaction, that have a complete inability to verbalize someone along the lines of Hey, can I talk to you privately for a moment. Yet, if it had somehow managed to be funny, truly all would be forgiven.
Alas, it was not to be. The writing is dull, even when it manages to conjure up something with potential. A lambada dance-off of doom, for example. Even Kristen Chenoweth at her sequin-spangled best as a wedding planner/choreographer cant sell this, and neither can the actors who overact when not missing anything remotely resembling timing. Director Andy Fickman somehow found exactly the wrong camera shot for every take, thereby missing what might have been moments possibly worth watching. The question of why he decided to use an edgy, hand-held camera for domestic moments is one that defies explanation. The specific use of the effect evokes not laughter but a vague sense of nausea. The actors involved in this misuse of recording equipment, White excepted, seem to have decided that talking very loudly and making exaggerated movements, even while doing something a static as having dinner, would somehow compensate. They were wrong.
Pointless and excruciatingly prolonged are the bywords here. If a scene doesnt work, stretch it out infinitely in the hope that, like an infinite number of monkeys typing on an infinite number of typewriters, something funny will turn up. It doesnt. And just when the tiresome nature of an unfunny comedy has taken its toll, the mood suddenly shifts to psycho-drama. It, too, misses the mark by a startlingly wide margin and for the reasons cited above.
For a good portion of YOU AGAIN, Bell, who at this point is supposed to have pulled her life and wardrobe together, wears a chiffon shirt that strains open at the bust. How perfectly emblematic of the craftsmanship and attention to detail at work in a flick that is sloppy, forced, and unpleasant to watch.