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High-school senior Ryan has a crush on sexy, popular Ashley. Ryan's best friend, Maggie, thinks he should get over it already. But Ashley's super jock cousin, Chris, has the hots for Maggie, and he'swilling to do whatever it takes, including swapping identities and advice with Ryan, to win her heart. Everyone's got a date by prom time, but does anyone truly match up? In this hilarious romantic teen comedy featuring talented young actors Shane West (TV's Once and Again, Liberty Heights), Marla Sokoloff ( TV's The Practice, Sugar and Spice), Jodi Lyn O'Keefe (She's All That, TV's Nash Bridges)and James Franco (TV's Freaks and Geeks, Never Been Kissed), mistaken identities are part of the fun of falling in love.
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Whatever It Takes initially seems little more than another comedy with impossibly attractive teenagers trying to get into each other's pants. Ryan (Shane West) is a bit of a geek with eyes for the school sex bomb, Ashley (Jodi Lyn O'Keefe), which induces cringing in his neighbor and best friend, Maggie (Marla Sokoloff), a cute intellectual girl. But popular jock Chris (James Franco) has his eye on Maggie, and he offers to help Ryan win Ashley if Ryan will help Chris woo Maggie. So begins a two-headed variation on Cyrano de Bergerac; Ryan composes soulful e-mails for Chris, and Chris advises Ryan to treat Ashley like dirt, which seems to be the only way to get her attention.
At first, neither finds it easy to change their ways; Chris comes on too strong, and Ryan is too nervous to be a jerk. But as they start to succeed, Ryan begins to see Maggie in a new light and wonders if he's pursuing the right girl. Which could all be very standard and shallow, but as the story unfolds the movie examines staying true to yourself and finding self-worth in surprisingly trenchant and unpreachy ways. Which is not to say that Whatever It Takes is high-minded--everyone's excessively good-looking and prone to wearing tight or revealing clothing, and there's a subplot about a kid who aspires to achieve school immortality through a topnotch prank. But the movie offers more than you might expect, which sets it apart from many of the recent swarm of teen flicks. --Bret Fetzer
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