Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked “Never Been Kissed.”
The Movie: “Never Been Kissed”
Starring: Drew Barrymore, David Arquette, Michael Vartan
Director: Raja Gosnell
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) A newspaper reporter enrolls in high school as part of research for a story.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 55 percent
Brown: We keep our receipts here at the JOE-DOWN.
See, in our last review, Froemming made it a point to gaslight me whenever he could when we reviewed “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”
So instead of gaslighting Froemming, I’d rather just set off the nuclear war siren with what I know will get under his skin: a romantic comedy.
To my knowledge, we’ve only covered one movie with Drew Barrymore in it, when she had a cameo in “Batman Forever.” So why not drive my partner crazy with her patented brand of nearly crying while delivering any line of dialogue?
And hell, it’s been almost a year since we’ve watched a romantic comedy. Well, I think “Splash” counts as a romantic comedy. Maybe “Every Which Way But Loose” if we count the relationship between Clint Eastwood and the chimpanzee.
Now, I knew the basic premise of this movie: grown-ass woman Drew Barrymore infiltrates a high school for a newspaper story for reasons.
Little did I know that it’s darker than that. MUCHHHHHH darker.
Plus, I’m sure we’ll get angry at the long-lost days of newspapers making money.
Froemming, give us your first take while I read Shakespeare in front of the cool teacher’s class.
Froemming: I was going to pick a Happy Madison movie as revenge for this, but after the first half-hour of this movie, I realized for you this…
Yeah, Brown committed revenge upon himself. Truly a JOE-DOWN first!
Now as to this movie, I knew nothing about it. It takes place when I was in high school, though because in high school I was…
…so a lot of this was just foreign to me.
Brown, as I prepare to call the cops on you for making me watch a movie where the love story takes place between a teacher and a student he thinks is 17, why don’t you kick this off.
Brown: We begin in the office of the Chicago Sun-Times, where Josie Geller (Barrymore) is, at 25, the youngest copy editor on staff.
And already, this movie put me in a bad mood. Because apparently in the late ‘90s, a copy editor at a newspaper gets their own office AND secretary? In the current-day environment, all the copy editors… well, they wouldn’t be employed because that’s a job that gets cut nowadays.
Froemming: Not only does this copy editor have an office and assistant (my blood is boiling at this scene alone) she can AFFORD A HOUSE IN THE CHICAGO SUBURBS!
Brown: Considering what she does for a living, guess what Josie’s defining characteristic is? Seriously, everyone, take a guess.
She’s a grammar nazi. So all the pieces on why she’s 25 and never been kissed makes ALL the sense in the world. And this comes from someone who gets fired up when even my closest friends and family use the term “first annual.”
Also, Froemming, let’s remember that apparently, Josie can afford to live in a house in the Chicagoland area by copy editing *checks notes* one story a day?
Seriously, the only story she’s given is by her editor. And it’s ONE story. She apparently has eight hours in the work day to do this.
Froemming: Well, I am starting to suspect her financial windfall is because her editor — HER BOSS — is Jerry Buss.
If he is willing to spend like a drunken sailor on the Showtime Lakers, he is also going to for the Chicago Sun-Times.
I am shocked Brown didn’t have a stroke because I made a sportsball reference.
Brown: If it wasn’t on HBO Max, you wouldn’t know a thing about the Showtime Lakers. Now, if you break down the efforts of Kurt Rambis on those teams, then I’ll stroke out.
Froemming: Rambis, the guy who lived on the floor of his friends’ kitchen and was considered one of the weirdest people in NBA history? His insane ability at rebounds?
Yeah I am reading the book too, bubba.
Brown: Anyone else smell toast?
Back to the movie, listening to her co-worker Anita (Molly Shannon) talk about hooking up with the opinions editor (remember when papers had those?), Josie admits that she’s never been in a serious relationship. She then goes on to wax poetically about kissing someone for the first time.
When you’re putting kissing on a pedestal, you’re set for so much future disappointment, Josie.
Shortly after, during a newsroom meeting (which baffled me because the last two years of newsroom meetings have been via Zoom), the editor-in-chief decides he wants one of the reporters to go undercover at a local high school to really get into the kids’ lives.
And who does the editor pick? Someone who has never been a reporter!
Froemming: OK, so here are some giant red flags here. One, even pre-Columbine, one could not just pose as a student without important things like social security numbers and shit. Schools need information on students for all sorts of things, so the technical part here is mind-blowingly stupid.
Now, we got past that, let’s discuss the ethical issues of having a 25-year-old pose as a 17-year-old, tricking students and teachers alike for a story in which (and this makes me so angry) there is literally no angle or actual story. It is just Josie going to high school like she is (REDACTED) Billy Madison.
And yes, she pulls up in what looked like a shot-for-shot remake of that scene.
Brown: I wrote the exact same thing in my notes!
Also, there has to be someone better to put into this role if you insist on basically making news via entrapment. See, Josie was constantly bullied in high school. You see flashbacks to it throughout the entire movie. High school was her Vietnam.
Now, fast-forward years later. Her current life has her at home with pet turtles and her hobby is sewing her own throw pillows and keeping them stacked in her guest room.
This is a good time to mention that I think throw pillows on beds are a (REDACTED) stupid idea. I don’t need one extra step preventing me from sleeping. And I shouldn’t have to tweak my back picking up those (REDACTED) things when I make the bed in the morning. (REDACTED) throw pillows.
And at the risk of sounding ageist, Josie looks closer to 37 than 17. It’s kind of weird saying that since Drew Barrymore was in her mid-20s during the making of this movie. But she also did some hard living during her teenage years. It made the whole joke in “Not Another Teen Movie” about a geriatric posing as a high-school student seem way more grounded in reality than it should have been.
Froemming: The age issue really confused me and I messaged you about it. In the flashbacks, we are led to believe Josie graduated in the 1980s, because it is 1980s music that is playing every time we get these (Cyndi Lauper’s “She-Bop” is playing at one point, a song that came out in 1983). So, the latest, if I am trusting what the movie is trying to tell me, she graduated in 1989 at the latest. This movie takes place in 1999, so she should be at least 28?
Brown: The timeline is the least of this movie’s problems.
So Josie’s second attempt at high school … is going as poorly as her first time through. She gets hazed by a teacher by wearing a goofy sombrero just for being tardy. Other students are picking on her wardrobe which, honestly, looks like she raided Ric Flair’s robe collection. And someone *checks notes* stole her car and hid it on a football field where a marching band is practicing the theme song to “The Simpsons?”
Me upon recognizing the song:
Froemming: Me, seeing and hearing this on one of your picks:
Brown: The two saving graces of Josie’s first day:
- A fellow nerdy girl Aldys (played by an appropriately aged Leelee Sobieski) who takes Josie in right away and even has her join the math club.
- The cool English teacher, Mr. Coulson. Know why he’s cool? Because his (REDACTED) name is pronounced COOL-son. Also, he lets the kids call him by his first name AND he plays hockey in class. He’s a feathery head of hair away from being Rod Belding.
Froemming: He gave me flashbacks of a particular dean of a college.
Brown: Mr. Coulson used to play bass for The Pretenders?
Froemming: We also meet Josie’s younger brother, Rob, who has given up on life at 22. Which, when you think about it, is one of the darkest parts of this movie. But he later on also goes back to high school and I got serious flashbacks of this:
One day, I will own a Music/Band shirt.
Brown: Seeing that we’re in the season for it, let’s mention that apparently this high school is known nationwide for how good its proms are? It’s basically a B-plot to this movie that the students have to keep this tradition of having the best prom in the United States. And in order to do that, they need an original theme.
And what is this ORIGINAL theme in the year of our Lord 1999?
That had to be a place filler for a better idea they never came up with in the script, right?
Froemming: Josie’s story ideas are, honestly, terrible for even a student newspaper. Coleslaw? Yeah, school food has never been top-tier. Her boss, Dr. Buss, is irate they got outscooped on the garbage can fire party the stoners drink at every night, which my God how slow of a news day could a paper have?
Brown: John C. Reilly is mad because the Tribune scooped the Sun-Times on a story that *gasp* high school kids drink?! What madness!
Brown: Also… Josie can’t think of a way to break in with the cool kids.
I have an idea for you, Josie. Look, this whole idea is (REDACTED) already and so goddamn unethical already… so why not buy the kids booze? They’ll keep you around if you go pick up some Silver Wolf or UV pink lemonade vodka.
Froemming: I think these mean girls would throw that UV pink into a river, like what we actually saw happen in real life at a college party.
Brown: To be fair, that had to happen.
Froemming: Also, Josie starts this weird crush on a kid named Guy, who is making up words to catch on. And every time he says his new word, rufus, I could only think of this:
Brown: Oh, in another moment that’ll make Froemming and myself sad.
Josie is struggling mightily with this story, so the Sun-Times uses a *checks notes* fully stocked surveillance van to record what happens to Josie during the day. They hide a camera in a pin that Josie wears.
I’m glad for her sake that she didn’t have to wear the news hat that had one day left until retirement.
Froemming: Let’s also mention that taping and photographing high-school students without any permission from them, the school or their parents is highly unethical and could have some harsh legal consequences. Not only is she tricking them, lying to them, she is recording them. The class of 1999 here could have a lawsuit that could not only financially crush the newspaper, but also pay for a semester of college for each of the students.
Now, Josie has a heart-to-heart with her brother, who was popular in school because he is David Arquette, the perfect balance of stoner, nerd and jock all in one. He says all she has to do is get one person to think she is cool.
And no, it can’t be…
So, what does she do? She goes to a club that allows minors in as well. And yes, these places exist. There was this crusty bar in St. Cloud in the early-to-mid 2000s that had an 18+ night where teen girls would get hit on by creepy older college guys. Another disturbing fact of my disturbing hometown.
Brown: Well, Mr. Coulson is at the club with his girlfriend, which should raise ALL sorts of red flags for everyone involved. Then there’s a whole scene where Josie eats a weed brownie and sets white people dancing back to the Charleston.
Speaking of red flags, after talking to his sister, Rob decides to follow her lead and enroll at the school with hopes of getting attention from baseball scouts so he can live his dream of being a pro baseball player.
This school makes students go through a metal detector on a daily basis, so there is some importance when it comes to security. And yet two young adults have infiltrated the student body with comical ease?!
Also, if Rob was a good baseball player as a teen and he’s only, what, five years removed from high school, surely some scout is going to recognize him.
But no. This movie is nihilistic. It believes in nothing! This movie leads us to believe that by eating an entire tub of coleslaw in mere minutes, Rob is instantly the most popular guy in school.
As someone who would go table-to-table asking for peoples’ leftover nacho cheese on Taco Thursdays, gorging oneself makes you cool to absolutely no one, Rob.
Froemming: That is the most depressing story I have heard in a long time.
Anyway, Rob is wildly popular for eating that tub of coleslaw, and girls are hitting on him. Which made this movie even more disturbing. This, Josie flirting with Guy, a teacher who flirts with a girl he thinks is 17…you picked a movie that reinforces the Right’s view on Hollywood being nothing but pedophiles, Brown.
Brown: Don’t forget the new one, where teachers are apparently leftist groomers. “Never Been Kissed” has that in spades!
Froemming: Yes, we get this when Josie and Sam ride the ferris wheel. And he is talking about his relationship problems with what he thinks is an underage girl and tells her how pretty she is and how guys will be lining up for her. Holy shit, this was gross to watch. I should report you to the FBI, Brown.
Brown: Also, for the adult sister-and-brother combo of Josie and Rob, how (REDACTED) is it that Rob decides, as a 22-year-old man, to host a high-school kegger at their parents’ house? Imagine if the cops broke up that party and the total and utter shit those two would be in.
Instead, Josie gets asked to prom by Guy. And Rob gets asked to prom by a girl whose entire character is that she’s young, horny and does gymnastics.
Froemming: That is classic Tammy.
Brown: Remember that whole thing about doing this disguise nonsense for a nonsense story? Well, the time has come and Josie has NOTHING. Because she’s not a reporter.
Sure, she can come up with a pretty prose about kissing and love. I’m sure she’s a talented WRITER. But there’s a hefty difference between being a good writer and a good reporter.
Froemming: And let’s face it, it is REALLY difficult to be both. Takes lots of years of writing and reporting for people to be able to do both well.
Well, Dr. Buss decides the story will be about this groomer teacher preying on a student. Which he absolutely is doing. And THIS IS THE ROM-COM ELEMENT OF THIS (REDACTED) MOVIE!
Brown: I mean, at this point, yeah, I’d say the pervy teacher is the story. But again, this is a total case of entrapment. It’s not like there were rumors of inappropriate teacher/student relationships at the school.
But hey, Josie earns cool points from the student body when she helps think of a new prom theme: famous couples of the past.
So the big prom comes up and Josie and Guy are going as Rosalind and Orlando from Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.”
What’s Rob doing for prom? He’s dressing like Tom Cruise in “Risky Business.” You know, the scene where he lip syncs to Bob Seger?
So yeah… Rob, a 22-year-old adult, is going to a high school prom in nothing but a white dress shirt and whitey-tighties.
Froemming: Someone needs to call the cops.
Brown: Also, how the (REDACTED) is this a prom? This all seems like a great idea for a Halloween school dance or some sort of costume party. But prom? There’s mother(REDACTED) showing up dressed as the Village People.
Froemming: No idea. Never went to prom or a high school dance because in high school I was…
…so all this is foreign to me.
Brown: As someone who went to junior and senior prom, you typically go to your local mall and rent their finest tux. Or a zoot suit like I did as a senior because I was one of those nerds.
Also, as the resident Hunter S. Thompson fan of the JOE-DOWN, where was your rage levels at when Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo showed up at the prom, Froemming?
Froemming: I was as confused as Dr. Gonzo here:
And, we get a very confusing “Carrie” moment at the prom, when Guy asks Aldys to dance and she does. This is just a lead-up to the cool kids dumping dog food on her, not pig’s blood. Because, we need to remember, not everyone is as insane as John Travolta.
Brown: Well, we should mention that Josie is named prom queen. Also, earlier in the movie, Guy calls Aldys “Alpo” because she’s a dog?
She came to prom in a skin-tight Green Man-like body suit. Leelee Sobieski is not a dog, bro.
Froemming: Josie sees this and prevents her friend she has ignored for ¾ of this movie, causing Jessica Alba and her friends to wear dog food. Also, James Franco is in this, so Brown picked a very, very problematic movie this week.
Now Josie spills the beans. She tells the school she has lied to them for months. She doesn’t tell them she has also secretly recorded them, which will cause the Sun-Times to fold because holy shit that is some lawsuit these kids have.
Brown: To be fair, if John Hughes movies have taught us anything, there are a lot of absentee parents in the Chicagoland area.
Froemming: Yeah, mostly rich parents who can afford the best lawyers in the world.
Brown: Yeah, that is if the parents care about the kids more than they care about going to Europe or *insert ‘80s movie plot here*.
Froemming: Two words: Financial windfall. They are lawyering up.
And now Sam knows he is going to be outed for the pervert he is. While he did not technically commit a crime, this man should not be allowed in a school ever again. He abused his position of power to groom what he thought was an underage student.
Thanks for making me watch the most (REDACTED) up love story ever told.
Brown: Let’s not forget that Josie also outs Rob as also being an adult.
I imagine the student body attacked him with light tubes like the King of the Deathmatch Nick (REDACTED) Gage.
So… this story is dead, right? No one will talk to Josie. The Sun-Times’ reputation will be in tatters. Surely, everyone involved in this hair-brained idea is getting axed, right?
Nope. Josie writes a first-person story where she talks about how bad her high school experience was, what this experience was like. And in an act of contrition, she admits to Chicago that she has never been kissed. And to put a fairy tale ending to this story, she wants Mr. Coulson to meet her at a championship baseball game to make amends with a kiss on the pitcher’s mound.
Froemming, one of the first things we learned in college about reporting is DO NOT MAKE YOURSELF THE STORY. And that is 100 percent what Josie does.
She went to (REDACTED) Northwestern, one of the most prestigious journalism schools in the country. And after this story and ALL the ethical problems she was OK with, there’s no (REDACTED) way she’d pass a journalism class at a state school.
Froemming: The pervert shows up, they kiss and nobody learned a (REDACTED) thing. Bad decisions were rewarded to bad people in this movie.
Brown: This whole movie could have been redeemed if Mr. Coulson showed up to the baseball game, looked Josie in the eye and told her to (REDACTED) off.
But nope. The girl he told days before, when she revealed she was 25, “I can’t look at you the same way,” gets to have the guy that surely got his teaching license revoked because of Josie. Teenager or not, you violated the power dynamic of student-teacher, Mr. Coulson.
Also, there’s supposed to be a state championship baseball game starting, and they’re just making out on the mound. And the movie just ends, with everyone waiting for them to finish so we can decide a state champion.
Wow… just, wow. Froemming, let’s get to recommendations before we get Alpo poured on our heads.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Froemming: No.. Just..no.
Here is what’s coming up for the next JOE-DOWN:
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