A high school comedy that is a little smarter than most
You have seen this movie before. Not literally – I am not suggesting that you have recently sat down to watch it – but you will be very familiar with its storyline. For one thing, it’s set in a high school and tells the story of an unlucky in love teen who thinks he is too unattractive to gain attention from the ladies. There have been countless ‘ugly duckling’ movies like this one, including She’s All That and Clueless, so you can be forgiven if you sigh at the thought of watching another.
Then there’s the main premise of the plot: the class nerd helps the coolest guy in school romance the new girl by pretending to be him. Sound familiar? It’s another take on Cyrano De Bergerac and the various movies that have been inspired by it, including the Steve Martin/Daryl Hannah classic Roxanne. Do we really need another version of this oft-told tale?
Well, the answer is probably “no” but this movie isn’t that bad. Yes, it’s largely predictable, but with sharp writing, a quirky cast, and a pointed look at teenage insecurity, it’s actually worth a watch, especially if you go into this with low expectations.
It Takes Three stars Jared Gilman (Moonrise Kingdom) as Cy Berger, a young teenager with relatively low self-esteem because of the way he looks. He hates his appearance so much that he wants plastic surgery to correct his ‘faults’ although some of the people in his life, including his two moms, try to make him reconsider.
Cy is a bit of an outcast at school too so his life is a constant struggle. Things threaten to become worse for the unfortunate teen when a video of him standing with an erection goes viral. Still, his best friend Kat (Mikey Madison) does her best to infuse confidence in him and when Roxy (Aurora Perrineau), the new girl in school starts to take a liking to him, his life does start to improve.
Unfortunately, there is little chance of a relationship forming between Cy and Roxy, as Chris (David Gridley), the epitome of the coolest and most good-looking kid in school, gets in the way. Chris has the hots for Roxy but as he isn’t very good at expressing himself, he enlists Cy’s help to woo her. As this is a modern-day movie, Cy does this via social media and by speaking into the headpiece that Chris wears when taking Roxy on a date.
If you’re familiar with the storyline, you will know how it plays out. The closer Chris gets to Roxy, the more jealous Cy becomes, and as the movie draws to its conclusion, he does what he can to claim Roxy’s affections for himself. It’s predictable stuff but the movie stands out for two reasons.
Firstly, as I have already mentioned, Cy has issues with the way he thinks he looks. In itself, this isn’t something we haven’t seen before, as Steve Martin’s character in Roxanne had physical deformities that blighted his chances of romance. But in It Takes Three, Cy doesn’t laugh off his appearance in the same way that Charlie did in that aforementioned film. He is deeply affected by his ‘imperfections’ even though he doesn’t look ugly at all. It’s something that will resonate with any teen who suffers from body dysmorphia, a very real issue affecting many young people today, so it is good that the movie doesn’t shy away from this aspect of Cy.
Of course, as this is largely a comedy, the movie doesn’t dwell on Cy’s appearance issues. But the very fact that it touches on them in a sensitive way is a testament to the thoughtful writing provided by the movie’s screenwriters.
Then there’s the character of Roxy. She is a well-rounded character, with more to her than just a nice face and body. She’s intelligent, creative, and not afraid to stand up for herself, so she is more than just a piece of meat for the two competing teens to lust over. The less-than-predictable ending highlights this as Roxy calls the boys out for their deception rather than just falling head over heels in love with one of them.
So, while It Takes Three is a movie that will prove familiar to you, it’s not just a simple carbon copy of what has come before. It deals with teenage issues in a respectful way and is less old-fashioned than other movies of its type when it dissects the ins and outs of high school relationships. Admittedly, this isn’t exactly ground-breaking. Lots of recent movies have explored teenage identity, love, and sexuality in realistic ways. But as this movie, on the surface at least, is a high school comedy hinging on an age-old plotline, it’s surprising that it pushes the envelope a little further than those incarnations that came before it.
This is a movie I would recommend then. It’s far from being the best in the genre but it’s sweeter, more charming, and a lot more relevant than the shallow high school comedies that regularly pop up on our streaming services. It’s currently available on Amazon Prime so if you have a subscription, give it a chance as this is a movie that, despite its over-familiar plotline, you might just fall in love with.
Verdict - 6.5/10