By Bill Wine

1c2bd Movie Review: <em> You Again </em>by KYW’s Bill Wine —

Is high school ever really behind you? Can reunions with those who made your high school life hell ever be heavenly?  Does who you are in high school determine who you are for the rest of your life?

So asks You Again, and the answers are all the same:  no!

Pity that this contrived here-we-go-again comedy can’t ask and answer those questions in a more engaging and entertaining way.

Kristen Bell (at left in photo) is Marni Young, a 26-year-old public relations agency vice president who discovers that her older brother (Jimmy Wolk) is about to marry the woman who just happens to have been her high school nemesis, the popular cheerleader Joanna, played by Odette Yustman, who bullied Marni unmercifully back in the day.

So, with the demons that haunted her adolescence staring her in the face, Marni returns to her hometown on a mission to sabotage the wedding by showing her brother and everyone else his fiancee’s true colors.

To make matters worse, her sister-in-law-to-be presents herself as a selfless humanitarian, and has replaced Marni at the family dinner table and in the eyes of the family dog.

And, infuriatingly for Marni, she claims that she doesn’t remember ever even meeting Marni, let alone humiliating her in front of all her classmates.

Sigourney Weaver plays the fast-lane aunt of the bride, Ramona, who arrives to discover that the bride’s slow-lane mom, played by Jamie Lee Curtis (at right in photo), just happens to have been her high school rival. Small world, huh?

Anyway, more scores to settle, it would seem.

With Betty White as Marni’s bubbly Grandma Bunny, Kristen Chenoweth as Georgia the exuberant wedding planner, Victor Garber as Marni’s softspoken dad, and Dwayne Johnson in next-seat-passenger cameo mode — all of them pretty much wasted — this is one terribly underemployed supporting ensemble.

Director Andy Fickman (She’s the Man, The Game Plan, Race to Witch Mountain) — oh, him again! — works from a debut screenplay by Moe Jelline that has a few laughs but doesn’t really make us laugh.  At all.

Not when the humor is being suffocated out of existence by the incredulous coincidences, arbitrary behavior, forced slapstick, and strenuous overacting.

Kristen Bell, who comes off best here — and is appreciably more effective that she has been in recent outings –helps the film get off to a promising start with her self-deprecating narration, show-and-telling us the painful experience she had as the pimply, bespectacled, braces-wearing victim of a sadistic and relentless bully back in high school.  She’s appealingly sympathetic and she eases us into the story.

But as soon as the family gathers, the comic tone becomes strident and off-putting. Act II offers a stray checkle or two, but is mostly embarrassing.

And by the third-act climax, we’re watching a comedic car wreck.

This is lifeless, uninspired, by-the-numbers moviemaking that squanders a promising if familiar premise and, rather than building to any kind of catharsis, gets less and less watchable as it proceeds.

So we’ll graduate 1½ stars out of 4 for the mostly lame and often excruciating second-chance comedy, You Again.

If you think high school was painful, wait till you see this.

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