A frontal lobotomy is probably the minimum it would take for a
viewer to glean the slightest amusement from the miserable
collection of teen-comedy conventions inflicted upon us by
writer Mark Schwahn and director David Raynr in “Whatever
It Takes.” The script, about two high-school guys, one a nice
ordinary joe and the other an arrogant jerk, who work together
to win each the girl he’s after, was clearly “inspired” by
“Cyrano De Bergerac,” but this is no “Ten Things I Hate About
You,” which had considerable success in transposing “The
Taming of the Shrew” to a modern teen setting. Indeed,
“Whatever” is so irremediably awful that I wouldn’t be a bit
surprised if Edmund Rostand didn’t rise from the dead to
pursue legal action against those responsible for the utter
desecration of his work. The mixture of puerile double
entendres, vomit humor, dumb-blonde and dumb-jock jokes and
smarmy last-minute sentiment on display here is pretty much
beyond endurance.

In truth the “Cyrano” connection is pretty slight; “Whatever”
has a lot more in common with “Drive Me Crazy,” last year’s
bomb about two high-school pals who begin dating in order to
make the real objects of their affection jealous. The
present permutation has good guy Ryan (Shane West) approached
by star quarterback and general dullard Chris (James Franco) to
help him snag a date with Ryan’s next-door neighbor and buddy
Maggie (Marla Sokoloff), an intelligent girl who’s apparently
the only babe the footballer hasn’t been able to bag before
graduation. In return Chris promises to assist Ryan make
contact with dream-girl Ashley (Jodi Lyn O’Keefe), whom the
poor boy has been drooling over for months.

If you’ve even seen a John Hughes movie you’ll know precisely
how this oh-so-complicated plot is going to turn out. You’ll
also have met Ryan’s geeky chums Floyd (Aaron Paul), Cosmo
(Colin Hanks) and Dunleavy (Manu Intiraymi), whom Ryan must
necessarily diss in his drive up the high-school social ladder.
And certainly you’ll know that the movie will conclude with an
inevitable prom-night sequence in which all is sorted out.

What’s amazing is how clumsily all these conventions are
played out in this instance. To be sure, West and Sokoloff are
attractive young performers, but it’s hard to sympathize with
their characters at all when the former is forced to do a
“Risky Business”-style private dance wearing only jocky shorts
and an accordian and the latter is made to inflict upon Chris
at the close a punishment more offensive than his original
crime. And you’ve probably never encountered quite so moronic
and irritating an embodiment of total geekdom as that offered
here by the singularly no-talent Paul, for whom this will, one
hopes, prove a career-killing turn. You also have to wonder
when the makers deliberately call up an invidious comparison
to a much-loved classic by patterning the “big laugh” in the
prom sequence after the famous gym dance in Frank Capra’s
“It’s a Wonderful Life.”

The feeble finale does have one appropriate aspect, though, in
that the theme of the prom turns out to be a salute to the
Titanic. This fact allows for one line of dialogue, recalling
James Cameron’s epic, that elicits the solitary laugh that the
movie earns. It also prophetically implies that “Whatever It
Takes,” one of the worst examples of a generally terrible
cinematic genre, will quickly sink like a stone. In this case,
however, that fate will be no tragedy.