Directed by Joe Nussbaum
Starring Amanda Bynes, Matt Long, Sara Paxton
Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Release date: Jan. 22, 2008
In this modern-day twist on the Snow White fairy tale, Amanda Bynes stars as the titular character, who’s going off to college at Southern Atlantic University where she plans to pledge her deceased mom’s sorority, Kappa Phi Nu. Since she was raised by her dad (Smallville‘s John Schneider) and the workers at his plumbing company, the beautiful Sydney is a bit of a tomboy and not well-versed in the sorority’s prissy practices. (In lieu of party dresses, Sydney packs her suitcase with boarded and bagged comic books!)
As soon as Sydney arrives on campus, she meets Tyler Prince (Matt Long), the handsome fratboy with a heart, who also happens to be the ex-boyfriend of Kappa’s queen of mean, Rachel Witchburn (Sara Paxton). The attention Sydney gets from Tyler brings the jealous Rachel’s wrath down upon her, leading to Sydney’s dismissal from the Kappa house and into The Vortex, the near-condemned home at the end of Greek Row of seven dorky misfits.
What follows next is not just a mere correlation of themes and props from the Snow White tale — the dorks personalities that match those of the dwarfs, the “Prince” that seeks the heroine’s affections, the revealing magic mirror, and of course, the poisonous apple — but also a Revenge of the Nerds-esque plight of the underdog scenario where Sydney leads the charge against the baddies of the Greek system.
Sydney White was directed by Joe Nussbaum — a certifiable geek. Nussbaum directed American Pie Presents: The Naked Mile (there’s his teen-comedy experience), but more importantly, he wrote and directed George Lucas in Love — now that’s geek cred right there! Nussbaum’s love of Star Wars is smattered throughout the Vortex house.
The Vortex’s resident Dorks, while yes, they are social misfits with Seven Dwarf distinctions (Sneezy, Sleepy, etc.), they really are the kinds of friends you want to have. They’re sensitive, creative, and supportive, as well as totally into cool stuff, like movies, videos games, and comic books. Who wouldn’t want to hang with these guys?
I’m not sure why this movie was given a PG-13 rating, since it’s not a raucous teen romp, and even the actions of the wicked Rachel aren’t so horrible enough to have to shield the children from it. Actually, while Rachel’s elitist stance is arrogant and her treatment of the Kappa sisters and pledges is downright mean, she’s hardly evil. Maybe it was all the cleavage and short-shorts, and the use of “ho” and “bitch” one or two times that give it that rating.
Because of its fairy tale template, the conclusions in the film are somewhat predictable — everything falls into place easily, age-old battles are resolved in minutes, and all’s well that ends well. It would easy for one to dismiss Sydney White as a Revenge of the Nerds knockoff, with the fairy tale allusions and Bynes’s casting an obvious catering to young teen girls. But at its heart, Sydney White is a cute movie with a notable message — and its host of geeky references is quite enjoyable, too.
DVD Bonus Features
There aren’t not too many extras on this one-disc widescreen edition, and most of the features — which average about five minutes each — are of the actors talking about how wonderful it was to work on the film and how funny everyone else was. Most of these could have been scrapped and replaced with a 30-minute “making of” featurette. It seems that perhaps the actors weren’t really prepared to film these featurettes, which is a shame. There’s no director commentary, which I think would have really upped this DVD release, since director Joe Nussbaum obviously put a lot of thought into creating this movie.
The stand-out feature is definitely “Welcome to the Vortex,” which goes behind-the-scenes of the rundown Dork house. While the props for the most part aren’t given enough attention in the movie, in this feature, you’ll notice a life-size Greedo, Darth Vader, and a Han Solo frozen in carbonite, as well as a costly lightsaber-wielding Yoda.
The usual bloopers, not all that funny, except for one or two scenes.
Director Joe Nussbaum intros each deleted scene, mostly cut from areas in the beginning of the film for pacing purposes.
The Original Dork
A feature that has the cast talking about director Joe Nussbaum; Nussbaum also talks about what drew him to the project and how he liked the idea of the Seven Dorks, and goes into detail about the Sydney White character.
Sydney and her Prince
The cast talks about how adorable Amanda Bynes is and how great the Sydney character is. Not much on “The Prince,” but this is a fairy tale — the prince is usually just a background dude with not much attention paid to him. Same here.
Meet the Dorks
A little inside look at the actors who play the Seven Dorks that live at The Vortex. Stand-out Dork is definitely “Sneezy,” played by newcomer Jack Carpenter.
Not really about the Kappa sorority, but rather it’s a look at Sara Paxton as Rachel Witchburn character. (Paxton played the mermaid in Aquamarine).
If you didn’t get enough of the puppet Skoozer (a rip-off in looks of Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog) — which the “Bashful” Dork Jeremy (Adam Hendershott) uses to help with his shyness — here’s more on the puppet.
Welcome to the Vortex
A tour of the Dork house, The Vortex, given by “Happy” Dork Samm Levine (Freaks and Geeks). Also, the filmmakers explain how they wanted the house to look like the Seven Dwarfs cottage.