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Movie Review

Poor Cyrano de Bergerac has been used, abused, mocked and generally sullied by filmmakers and playwrights for centuries. The subject of many French legends, de Bergerac was first immortalized by an 1897 play in which he was portrayed as a shy and ugly lover, possessed (as in fact he was) of a remarkably large nose. He woos his girl by hiding in the background and whispering lines of poetry to another man who has a prettier face. Whatever It Takes flips the story on its head, skips the large nose, replaces "shy" with "unpopular" and turns Cyrano into Ryan Woodman, a high school student desperately in lust with the most popular girl on campus, Ashley Grant. Meanwhile the most popular boy in school, Chris, falls for Ryan’s best friend and neighbor, Maggie. Ryan and Chris strike up a deal so they can both have the "girls of their dreams." Derivative doesn’t even begin to describe the sophomoric drivel that follows.

Positive Elements: Misguided and silly as the plot may be, one positive lesson shines through: Don’t chase after whimsy and fancy when real substance stands right next to you. School sexpot Ashley is eventually shown for the rude, crude, socially undesirable individual that she truly is.

Spiritual Content: None.

Sexual Content: Innuendo and sexual slang abounds, along with near-nudity and sexual groping. Chris is shown tied to the bedposts wearing only thong underwear. One of Chris’s friends moons the camera. Ashley wears provocative clothing and is fond of flaunting her body in the school halls. Ryan’s friend sneaks him into the girls’ locker room, where he watches Ashley take a shower (full nudity is obscured). Later, at Ashley's house, she undresses in front of Ryan and invites him to join her in the shower. Ryan’s buddies download porn on the Internet and watch a pornographic videotape. The school nurse, who happens to be Ryan’s mother, places a five-foot tall sculpture of a penis on stage during an assembly to demonstrate to the students how to put on a condom. There’s one joke about lesbians.

Violent Content: Slapstick only. A teacher and students fall into a pool during prom when the gym floor splits apart over it. A gym teacher beans Ryan with a baseball (Ryan returns the favor by sending a line drive right at his crotch).

Crude or Profane Language: About 10 s-words ruin some of the dialogue, but the swear words of choice for onscreen teens are "a--hole" and phallic slang. Jesus’ name is also abused more than once.

Drug and Alcohol Content: Teens smoke, guzzle beer and sip champagne at several parties.

Other Negative Content: A gross scene at a retirement home involves a bed pan and Jell-O. (Trust me; that’s all you want to know.)

Summary: Ryan sells his best friend, Maggie, down the river of superficial attraction just to score a hot date with Ashley. When he fesses up, Maggie is quick to forgive him (she shouldn’t be) and gives him a big hug and smooch on the lips. It’s quite sickening, actually. Ryan’s not the only one rewarded for his misdeeds. Vandalism, rampant destruction of property and sexual interludes are all treated lightheartedly and irresponsibly. Devoid of even a single original idea, Whatever It Takes fails on far too many levels to count.

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Shane West as Ryan Woodman; Christine Lakin as Sloane; Marla Sokoloff as Maggie Carter; Jodi Lyn O'Keefe as Ashley Grant; James Franco as Chris Campbell; Aaron Paul as Floyd


David Hubbard ( )


Columbia Pictures



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In Theaters

On Video

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Steven Isaac

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