Get Over It: Tommy O’Haver Comedy Starring Ben Foster

Shrewdly calculated and energetically campy, Tommy O’Haver’s Get Over It is a comic exploration of an intense first love and its bitter aftermath from a boy’s perspective.

A follow-up to writer R. Lee Fleming’s She’s All That, a romantic comedy that starred Freddie Prinze Jr. and Rachel Leigh Cook, the new movie (also released by Miramax) will not be as popular as that box-office hit, but it’s a serviceable and enjoyable date movie for high-schoolers and college students during spring break.

Reportedly it was the idea of honcho Harvey Weinstein to “incorporate” Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream into the script, a concept that Fleming has put to good effect, as his movie is dealing with young, unrequited love, which is the dominant theme of the Bard’s popular play. As its title suggests, Get Over It is an earnest, good-natured, upbeat story of a sane and healthy all-American boy, who goes slightly nuts when his sweetheart suddenly dumps him.

In voice-over narration, Berke Landers (Ben Foster) proudly tells the audience that Allison is “the first girl who saw me naked,” at age seven. Years later, a grown-up Allison (Melissa Sagemiller) walks into Berke’s life, and the duo throw themselves head over heel into a seemingly blissful relationship. That it, until 16 months and three days later, she announces out of the blue that the affair is over. Shocked and devastated, Berke asks for an explanation. “The feeling is gone,” Allison says, while walking him to the door with a bag of personal belongings.

What’s a nice boy to do Instead of rushing into the next affair, as most Hollywood romances would recommend, he sinks into depression, isolating himself from his friends and obsessively following Allison. Intent on winning back his lost love, Berke goes as far as taking a role in a school play, just because Allison plays the lead.

Never mind that he likes basketball and has no acting talent or dramatic interest. Risking ridicule from his buddies, Berke puts on tights and begins taking singing and dancing lessons with the encouragement of Dr. Desmond Forrest-Oates (Martin Short), a fastidious drama teacher of limited talent who transforms Shakespeare’s classic into a musical called “A Midsummer Night’s Rockin’ Eve.” Kelly (Bring It On’s Kirsten Dunst), the younger sister of Felix (Colin Hanks, Tom’s son) Berke’s best friend, volunteers to help him recite Shakespeare’s text, while harboring a secret crush on him.

From this point on, the plots follows a rather predictable path. Last “let’s put on a show” reel is almost exclusively devoted to rehearsals, integrating quite inventively the characters’ offstage problems into Shakespeare’s magical romance, all leading to an zestily cheerful finale.

In its campy-gay sensibility, Get Over It is like a big party that’s easier to take in small dosage than attend for the entire duration. Holding the vignettish structure together is the resonant performance of Foster, who made a strong impression in Barry Levinson’s Liberty Heights, and here shows the potential to become a major player.

The gallery of youngsters is colorful and racially diverse, including black hip hop artist Sisqo, who plays Dennis, one of Berke’s best friends. Shane West (of the popular TV series, “Once and Again”) plays Striker, a sophisticated foreign exchange student, who becomes Allison new beau and thus Berke’s archrival. Supermodel Kylie Bax is featured as Dora Lynn Tisdale, a slightly older, accident-prone woman, whom Felix tries to set up with Berke before falling for her charms himself.

As for the adults, they are just as caricatures as they usually are in teen comedies–though there’re some twists. Intentionally played over-the-top by Short, the drama teacher here competes ferociously with his students to be young and hip, dropping names of Hollywood celebs and fabricating lines that he attributes to Bobby De Niro and company.

Deviating from most parents in such pictures, the Landers (played by Swoosie Kurtz and Ed Begley Jr.) are more permissive and open-minded than their own son. “We are so incredibly proud of you for getting on with your life,” they tell Berke, upon picking him up from the police station. And in another scene, mother talks candidly about sex, then offers her son a condom.

Like many youth comedies, Get Over It has a light, peppy surface, though underneath lurks a darker thread about a once-ideal world gone awry. But all of this covered by the sassy, impudent direction of O’Haver, who made a splashy feature debut in 1998 with Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss, a giddy gay romantic comedy that was similar in theme and style. Like that film, Get Over It was shot by Maryse Alberti in bold colors, dominated by pink and red, and in Cinemsascope, resulting in a look that recalls the exaggerated cartoonish style of Frank Tashlin in his Jayne Mansfield farces (The Girl Can’t Help It).

The vital musical numbers mostly composed by South Park’s Marc Shaiman, wild parties, and dream sequences make the movie more of a magical fantasy, which is congruent with Shakespeare’s tone. Helmer’s own description of his first film, “A Tommy O’Haver Trifle,” also fits his sophomore effort.