Grade: C

Miramax decided not to hold any press pre-screenings for their new teen comedy, which is rather a shame considering that it’s one of the less horrible examples of the genre to come out in the last year or so. That’s not so say that “Get Over It” isn’t formulaic and, by comparison to some earlier pictures, second-rate. By situating a typical high-school problems-with-romance scenario within the context of a staging of a musical version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” for instance, it calls to mind “10 Things I Hate About You,” which was better. Its general air of understatement, moreover, isn’t far removed from the mood of Amy Heckerling’s underappreciated “Loser,” but that picture was more clever. And by recycling the hoary plot about the guy who’s gaga over one chick while failing to recognize that his true soul-mate is the nearby girl who’s always ready to lend him a hand, it practically demands that you stack it up against John Hughes’ early pictures, like “Some Kind of Wonderful,” which–while hardly great movies–had a freshness this one can’t match.

Still, by the rather low standards of today, this sophomore effort by director Tommy O’Haver (the arch “Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss”) and writer R. Lee Fleming, Jr. (the soporific “She’s All That”) is a generally tolerable bit of fluff, certainly marking an improvement for both over their debut features. It also boasts an engaging and likable cast. Ben Foster gives an agreeably low-key performance as Berke, a sad-sack sort of fellow dumped by his long-time squeeze Allison (photogenic, and pleasantly non-shrewish, Melissa Sagemiller), who soon takes up with a pompous, posturing braggart named Bentley (Shane West). To win Allison back, Berke gets involved in the campus show, but his lack of talent forces him to ask the help of sweet Kelly (Kirsten Dunst), the younger sister of his best buddy Felix (Colin Hanks). It doesn’t take long for anybody in the audience to realize that Kelly is the perfect girl for Berke, but the poor guy is a bit denser than we are, and he has to go through a series of humiliations and soul-searching moments before he finally makes the decision we all knew from the start he would.

All this is terribly pat, of course, but Foster and Dunst work so nicely together that their quieter moments have real charm–more, certainly, than Dunst could bring to the cretinous “Bring It On.” There’s also an amusing secondary courtship between Berke’s friend Dennis (Sisqo, who on the evidence here has real screen presence) and Kelly’s pal Basin (Mila Kunis, the wonderfully goofy Jackie from “That ’70’s Show”). Hanks and Sagemiller are solid, too–each happily eschewing the over-the-top exaggeration with which characters like theirs are usually portrayed in these kinds of flicks in favor of a more restrained, easygoing approach. (The only one of the younger performers who overdoes things radically, in fact, is West–though that can be chalked up to the requirements of conventional villainy).

Unfortunately, the understated sweetness of much of “Get Over It” is all too often interrupted by those throwaway bits of crudity and raunchiness that filmmakers seem to consider obligatory in teen comedies nowadays. A running gag about a dog that humps anything within reach, for example, is not only vulgar but unnecessary. Scenes in which Berke gets prodigiously urinated on by a horse and arrested while shackled and strung up in a sex-club seem completely gratuitous, as well as utterly unfunny. And a sequence in which Berke appears on the basketball court in a state of only half-dress is depressingly dumb. If the makers had had the courage to excise the gross-out material and keep the picture’s cheerful tone unsullied, the result would have been far more enjoyable, if still pretty predictable.

They might also have reined in some of the older actors, most of whom chew up the scenery a tad too ravenously. The worst offender is Martin Short as the self-important writer- director of the school play. The character is like something lifted out of an old SCTV skit, but Short’s extravagant overplaying, which worked well on the small screen, becomes more than a little oppressive when shoved at us in extreme close-up. And Swoozie Kurtz and Ed Begley, Jr. are only slightly less broad as Berke’s far too understanding parents. (As in so many pictures aimed at the younger crowd, the son is far more mature than mom and dad.) It would also have been nice had the musicalized “Dream” (of which, in the last reel, we endure quite a bit) been either more or less awful. As it is, it’s neither “Kiss Me Kate” (which would have been one way to go), nor “Springtime for Hitler” (the other); it’s just mediocre and tedious (including Kelly’s self-penned song, which, it seems, one’s supposed to be think good). As a result, the big climax of the picture falls more than a little flat.

“Get Over It” is, in the final analysis, a generally harmless trifle that’s better than you might expect but not as good as you’d want. It has enough incidental pleasures to keep you reasonably content if you stumble into it, but you’ll probably be reluctant to recommend it to your friends afterwards, despite the charm of its leads.