The Hot Chick (2002)TWITTER/NCT_BLOG

In a nutshell: Mean girl Jessica Spencer (Rachel McAdams) swaps bodies with lowlife crook Clive (Rob Schneider); the story is one of sorority, self-awareness, and the problematic world that is 2000s comedies.

Rewind to springtime 2009, Dad shows me a film which for all I knew was about baby chickens, but which fuelled my nightmares for years to come. What terrified young me (and still sort of does) wasn’t just being trapped in a body that isn’t your own, but that someone else has free reign over yours, which our antagonist uses for his own criminal and sexual pleasure… Fast-forward to now, with homesickness and Halloween coming up (and wanting to ensure the whole experience wasn’t just a fever dream) I decided to give it another go.

The Hot Chick (2002)TWITTER/NCT_BLOG

Self-involved, crop-top wearing, cheerleader Jessica’s perfect but widely hated life is transformed when she steals cursed earrings. What were clearly meant as comic moments are more disturbing than anything else: in order to be close to her family she takes a job as Mexican gardener ‘Taquito’ (too much to unravel), hides out at her friend April’s (played by Anna Faris, because yes, she’s in this too), becomes her dad’s relationship counsellor, and fights off her mum as she tries to sleep with her.


Mountain View

Home is where the story begins

While the swap is mostly played for (completely inappropriate) laughs, it takes a slight shift in tone towards the end. Jess, realising she might never get back to her original body, breaks down in her red prom dress. Whilst her brother Booger comforts her, there’s not much reassurance to be had. Stuck in a body that repulses her, she’ll no longer be able to see her family, can’t live with her friend forever, has a criminal record, and at least ten years less to live. When the obligatory prom scene does arrive, Jessica is resigned to living life as a man. The only person she still has to convince is her boyfriend Billy. Yet even after his declaration of love for her, Billy cannot accept is who Jess now is:

“You always said you’d love me no matter what.”                                                    “You’re a 30-year-old dude!”

Of course, it’s meant to be funny, but actually, it’s terrifying, to discover that someone doesn’t actually love you for who you are but for what you look like. The moment is framed by April’s surprisingly touching realization that she is actually in love with her best friend, a love she can only now admit.

The Hot Chick (2002)TWITTER/NCT_BLOG

Throughout we only get glimpses of Clive in Jessica’s body: when he steals a pack of Tampax, takes her boyfriend’s money and car, gains the reputation as the criminal “hot chick” and takes up pole dancing. When they finally track him down to the strip club he’s been working at, he treats the body swap like an exchange of merchandise, only agreeing to loan it back on the condition that he can use every other weekend. Her body, to him, is a property he can trade, sell, and exploit. Luckily, they manage to steal the earrings back and, through the art of terrible face swap the characters return to their original bodies. The ending is happy, I suppose; Jessica is reunited with her boyfriend and family, there’s a rather teary hug, the police are called, and Clive is arrested. But the unease of the rest of the film never quite go away…

“We’re not going to let a little thing like me turning into a man and you wanting to be with me get in the way of our friendship?”

Is it worth watching? Most definitely not? The fact it’s rated 12A astounds me. Though it has some genuinely sweet moments, its main appeal is cringing at inappropriate humour and wondering how on earth it ever got made.

Highlights: Rachel McAdams; Adam Sandler’s repeated bongo drumming; and the terribly wonderful fashion of 2002.

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Lowlights: The reoccurring threat of r*pe, played for laughs, is horrifying, with the ending seeming to imply that crook Clive will get his ‘comeuppance’. It’s uncomfortable, to say the least.

The philosophical and personal implications of the central plot-line my stomach with dread whenever it crosses my mind; can we ever really take ownership of our bodies? Is love wholly dependent on our external image? Will I ever find a turn of the century comedy that doesn’t somehow have Adam Sandler in it?

Maybe child me was looking way too deep into it. But I think it’s telling that the movie is being revamped this year into the comedy-horror Freaky, starring Vince Vaughn; hopefully, this one won’t fuel the nightmares of a new generation…