You Again could have been written by a group of moms to convince their daughters that they can move past high school trauma. Successful publicist Marni (Kristen Bell) comes back home to finally meet her beloved brother’s bride-to-be, and finds that it’s her old high school bully Joanna (Odette Yustman).
The movie opens with a flashback of Marni as a bespectacled, acne-covered, and friendless teenager. Although Marni is now beautiful and successful, when she sees Joanna after all these years, she begins to re-enact her awkward high school self. Not surprisingly, Joanna is still as ruthless as she was in high school.
This movie is certainly not an intellectual indie flick, nor a halting suspense thriller. But it has all the ingredients for the standard American teen comedy, and masters them fairly well. While predictable and cheesy, the movie is funny for the most part. And though Bell is used to playing the bitchy hot chick, she is quite convincing in the role of an ex-loser still being outshined by the popular girl.
You Again manages to take a slightly different turn from the standard trope when it turns out that Joanna’s aunt Ramona (Sigourney Weaver) is Marni’s mother’s (Jamie Lee Curtis) high school nemesis as well. This sub-plot is probably what saves the movie as both Weaver and Curtis are skilled comedic actresses. Of course when history begins to repeat itself, they become as juvenile as their children.
The film also departs from the standard mean-girl-who-has-everything character by giving Joanna a few sympathertic aspects to her own life. Both her parents died, and she is now a nurse who gives to charity. Though she continues to bully Marni, you genuinely feel a bit sorry for her, making it a slightly less black-and-white portrayal of a clichéd scenario. In the end, she even manages to turn around her “mean girl” ways and face adulthood.
You Again preaches the familiar message that while old habits die hard, people can change.