Rated PG-13 - Running time: 1:47 - Released 4/9/99

Have you ever been in the position of trying to fit in, to be cool and impress your peers, when really they all think you're a loser who can't do anything right? Well, that must be the way Drew Barrymore feels at the completion of her first producing effort, Never Been Kissed. Written by Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, Never Been Kissed stars Barrymore as a 25-year- old Chicago journalist who has the chance to go back to high school and pretend to be a student — and maybe even fit in this time. But Barrymore's first production is neither fresh nor interesting, and is only another reiteration of the adolescent clash between the cool and the uncool.

Perhaps Barrymore's first mistake was hiring an inexperienced creative team. Director Raja Gosnell is really an editor with only one other directing credit to his name: the abysmal Home Alone 3. Writers Kohn and Silverstein collaborated before on the award-winning 1997 short film Fairfax Fandango. But if Never Been Kissed is the best they can do with a full-length feature, then perhaps they should stick to their shorts. Besides the half-baked premise, it's full of lame jokes, characters no deeper than a mud puddle, and a cloying "message" speech that is painful to sit through. Barrymore is at her cutesiest, again making liberal use of her famous dimples.

We all know the Chicago Sun-Times; it's where Roger Ebert works. Well, the Sun-Times is about to go out of business because it doesn't do enough high school stories. Editor-in-chief Mr. Rigfort (Garry Marshall, who belongs behind the camera, not in front of it) decides to send mousy city editor Josie Geller (Barrymore) undercover to South Glen South High School, posing as a student. Apparently there is no definite plan; she is just supposed to find something to write about.

Josie has never been one of the "in crowd," as we learn through recurring flashbacks of her own high school days, but she bravely prepares for the assignment. Attempting to blend in, she wears an all-white outfit (including a 6-foot feather boa) to school. She drops her books; she spills her chocolate milk, she trips over her high heels . . . you get the idea. She does make friends, but it's with the school brain (Leelee Sobieski). In order to really score the big story, she is told by her boss Gus (John C. Reilly), she must break in to the popular clique.

To the rescue comes Josie's brother Rob (David Arquette). He always wanted another try at a baseball career, so he enrolls, joins the team, and starts a propaganda blitz about how cool Josie is. While Rob is impressing the coach, Josie is impressing her classmates and developing a crush on English teacher Mr. Coulson (Michael Vartan). Also on hand is SNL's Molly Shannon, for no other reason than to give the cast list a little extra star power. Shannon plays Josie's co-worker who accidentally wanders into school and ends up giving the teens a lecture on sex.

Have you noticed yet that there's really no point to this story? You're right. There's something about Josie being pressured to do an exposé on Mr. Coulson's untoward affections, there's the old "popular versus unpopular" axe, and the love triangle between Josie, Mr. Coulson, and an amorous boy who is thought to be more her age (Jeremy Jordan). But from where I sat, Never Been Kissed should have Never Been Produced. There is one interesting thing to note, though: At Josie's high school, the colors are red and white, the mascot is the ram, and the uniforms have "SG" on them. Did anyone notice a film crew in Oakland within the last year? **

Copyright 1999 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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