A few words on It’s a Boy/Girl Thing

Monday May 30th 2011

I’m not ashamed to admit that, as of this weekend, I’ve seen the little-known teen comedy It’s A Boy/Girl Thing twice. Chances are you haven’t seen it (I probably account for about 50% of its total audience now) but you may well remember the veritable avalanche of advertising that accompanied the film when it limped into UK cinemas on Boxing Day 2006. Its wacky bench-based poster was plastered all over bus stops, billboards and tube platforms at the time, complete with a completely indecipherable quote from Sugar promising that the film was ‘body-swapping brilliant!’

I suspect I wasn’t alone in assuming that the film’s unfamiliar stars Kevin Zegers and Samaire Armstrong were actually quite a big deal in the States, maybe as Nickelodeon alumni or something similar. In which case, why were they trying so hard to make it work in the UK? Surely we weren’t the ideal target for something so innately American?

Little did I know that It’s A Boy/Girl Thing is actually a British film, which went straight to DVD in the States and most other parts of the world. Even its seemingly all-American stars aren’t quite as authentic as they seem, with Zegers hailing from Canada and Armstrong from Japan. The film itself is filled with little Brit-pandering touches too, from an inexplicable starring role for SHARON BLOODY OSBOURNE as Zegers’ character’s mum to unlikely prom scenes set to Girls Aloud (their version of I Think We’re Alone Now was recorded specifically for the film).

But cultural incongruences aside, It’s a Boy/Girl Thing is a body-swap comedy as predictable as it is blatantly enjoyable. Every single trope and cliché of the genre is present and correct, from the obligatory genital-inspection scene that immediately follows the body swap to the prank montage that dutifully arrives in the second act. It’d probably make for quite a fun drinking game if you’ve got time to put together a proper set of rules. Otherwise, feel free to use mine:

Nonetheless, the film is more than able to throw a few surprises your way when it feels like it. Its treatment of gender issues is remarkably complex at times, most spectacularly in a jaw-dropping scene where bookish loner Nell, trapped inside the body of handsome jock Woody, gets an erection while looking at herself, i.e. Nell’s body, with Woody’s brain. The questions this raises about the nature of identity, gender and sexuality are, unsurprisingly, too big to fully address in a 90-minute teen comedy, but you’ve got to hand it to them for trying.

I happened to mention on Twitter that I was watching the film, and as it turns out I’m not alone in my admiration for it. Scores of people were eager to add their own praise for the sharp script, likeable characters and brilliant perversity of the whole thing. It was almost as big as the response I got after mentioning William’s Wish Wellingtons earlier in the week.

So in the interest of spreading happiness, I thought I’d mention It’s a Boy/Girl Thing on here and recommend that you watch it for free on iPlayer any time before Thursday. You won’t regret it.

Saying that, if I’m honest I did have an ulterior motive for writing this review:

The film has a 57% score on Rotten Tomatoes, from just seven reviews. As a registered RT critic, I can submit this piece and singlehandedly push It’s a Boy/Girl Thing from ‘Rotten’ to ‘Fresh’ by upping the rating to 63%. Democracy in action!