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Drew Barrymore is cute.

She is especially cute in Never Been Kissed, her new vehicle in which she stars and tries out the role of executive producer. Not only is Barrymore a personality tailored for the silver screen (and apparently for behind-the-scenes work as well), she is a wonderful actress for the type of syrupy, comedic, transformative love story that the movie chronicles.

Think The Wedding Singer wrapped up in the complexities of high school culture.

This time around, she handles the role of Josie Geller, a 20-something grammatical perfectionist annoyingly perfect for her copy editing job at the Chicago Sun-Times. It comes as no surprise that she was a social outcast in high school and subsequently built a psychological cave for herself that has relegated her to being a social outcast for life. As a result, she has, as the movie title proclaims, never been kissed. Yet from her soliloquy at the outset of the film pondering the fantasy of one day discovering the Right Man, we know exactly what will come true by the end of the production. How she gets to that point and the inevitable obstacles she must endure along the way are what make Never Been Kissed a delight to watch.

There are basically three catalysts for Josie's rise from the tortured pubescent soul of "Josie Grosie" to a beautiful, confident young woman. First is a writing assignment to go undercover at a local high school to get the scoop on the latest adolescent trends and scandals. This gives Josie the opportunity to regress into the same type of cruelly divisive social organization that dominated her own high school experience, get another chance at popularity and reclaims the self-esteem that was extinguished just a few years earlier.


David Arquette's character, Josie's brother Rob, is the second motivator that pushes the cathartic journey along. He was once the classmate who egged on Josie's ridicule, a ridicule which snowballed into a series of nightmarish events that the movie chronicles through periodic flashbacks. But the sophomoric days of brotherly derision are behind him, and now he boosts his sister's morale in all the right situations while trying to improve his own stagnant life. In the meantime, his antics offer some great quips and scenes guaranteed to have you doubled you over in laughter.

The third and most important influence is Sam Coulson (Michale Vartan), Josie's new English teacher. There is a romantic vibe at first sight, although the apparent difference in age makes the attraction an uncomfortable thought. Obviously this is the Right Man, but how can Josie carry on the necessary charade and pursue the guy that embodies everything she's been dreaming of--an attractive, upbeat, sensitive lover of words--for so long?

You know a reasonable answer to the question will be found or this wouldn't live up to true commercial blockbuster form. Rolled up in the script's equation are a school and newspaper office full of colorful characters who provide momentum leading to the ultimate conclusion. Along the way, the movie weaves in a moral message or two in addition to the many hilarious mishaps of Josie's assignment and the saddening falls from her blossoming grace. The creativity underlying the fresh situations which evoke such emotional peaks and valleys in Never Been Kissed, are the same extremes we experience while watching, makes this film shine.

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