This Morning I Woke Up A Man: In Defense Of The Hot Chick (2002)

(Pictured below: Girl in men’s clothing? You decide.)

Plot Summary: An attractive and popular teenager named Jessica (Rachel McAdams) switches bodies with an older man, Clive (Rob Schneider) and must find a way to get back to her original body.

Everyone has their guilty pleasures. People have approached me over the years with their deepest, darkest secrets. A love for trashy romance novels. The cast of Jersey Shore. The music of Justin Bieber. I suppose mine have never been that serious. I usually say “Courtney Love and costume dramas,” but even then I’m not too ashamed to admit it.

However, there is something I’ve neglected to mention. I’ve never been able to figure out why I think The Hot Chick (2002) is so funny. It may be the dumbest thing I’ve watched again and again, and since it’s a Happy Madison production a cartload of dumb should be expected.

I do not tell people I enjoyed this movie.

That is until now. I’ve also discovered that other people really like it, posting quotes, pictures and GIFs on their Tumblrs daily. That’s pretty insane. So despite the negative reviews it has built a cult audience over the years.

This brings me to the ultimate question: why do people like The Hot Chick? I can’t answer for everyone, but I can answer for myself. Here are the reasons why I think the film is funny, which gags work for me and the ways in which is progressive and smart… at least as progressive and smart a Rob Schneider movie will allow.

You might be surprised.

- – – – -

1) The Girls Of The Hot Chick

I love the ragtag gang of girls that anchor this movie. They aren’t the typical girls you’re used to seeing hang out together. Apart from main characters Jessica Spencer (McAdams) and her best friend April (Anna Faris- who is hilarious in this), they remind me of actual people I went to school with.

In the beginning there are four in Jessica’s circle of friends. They’re fairly typical teenage girls- obsessed with shopping, dressing up and having fun- all while looking as cute and flirty as possible. Then things change. The addition of science-geek Hildenburg (Megan Kuhlmann) and goth chick Eden (Sam Dourmit) to the group shows how they are broadening their minds, accepting people who they wouldn’t normally be friends with. They find out that everyone has something to contribute and manage to set their differences aside.

Another interesting aspect of the movie is that it isn’t entirely about Jessica and April. Each girl has their own little subplot. Some were cut from the film for the sake of time, but prove that the writers and the director actually put some effort and thought into who they were.

I’ll discuss some of these subplots below.

2) Rachel McAdams: Proof That Everyone Has To Start Somewhere

The Hot Chick was the Rachel McAdams’ first American feature film. It helped her secure the role of Regina George in Mean Girls (2004), for one thing. After that she moved on to films that showed her range: The Notebook (2004), The Wedding Crashers (2005) and Red Eye (2005).

Despite her limited screen time in The Hot Chick it’s hard to ignore her talent. She not only nails the character of the bitchy queen bee but the pathetic criminal she switches bodies with. Sauntering, scowling and barely able to walk in heels, she starts a crime spree that gathers too much attention, all while making it comedic and believable. She truly behaves like a man trapped in a woman’s body.

In this case that man is a diabolical loser. It is the only time you’ll see McAdams play one.

3) Being Bi-racial: Perhaps The Only Serious Moment In The Movie

A Happy Madison movie doesn’t have time to be serious. It’s expected that Keecia, a.k.a. “Ling-Ling” (Maritza Murray) will usher some uncomfortable racial jokes into the story and that will be that. Besides, who really cares about being bi-racial in a Rob Schneider body-switching movie?

Apparently the movie does. From the beginning it’s assumed Ling-Ling is black. The truth is that she desperately wants to be accepted by the black community. Whenever she tries her mother (Jodi Long) pops up and embarrasses her with her Korean heritage.

Although the character of Ling-Ling’s mother is a broad caricature, Ling-Ling’s reactions are always played straight. They aren’t humorous at all. She is annoyed and mortified whenever her mother appears- even more than the average teenage girl. At one point she says to herself, “Out of all the Korean liquor stores, why did my dad have to walk into that one?”

This struggle isn’t just a gag in the movie, but a problem that needs to be resolved. It comes to a head at Prom when she is confronted by her mother in full gangsta gear, telling her, “Ling-Ling, you forgot your bling-bling!”

Ling-Ling has had enough and snaps at her in front of everyone.



This is followed by an unexpectedly serious scene in the parking lot, in which a tearful Ling-Ling stops her mother in the parking lot and asks why she keeps embarrassing her in front of everyone. Her mother replies, “You’re not ashamed of me. You’re really ashamed of yourself.”

This exchange really effects Ling-Ling, and the next time we see her she has embraced both of her heritages, as well as her father’s Judaism, and seems much more comfortable with herself.

4) Hildenberg Gets A Boyfriend

The character of Hildenberg is consigned to be the “fat girl” in the beginning of the movie, the butt of other characters’ jokes and obsessed with food (which is pretty annoying). However, it is revealed that there is more to her. Hildenberg is smart and the other girls need her help to figure out what is going on. She is also the one who discovers where Jessica’s body is “hiding,” namely the Pole Cat strip club downtown. In short, she solves the mystery.

There’s also a bonus for her: during the girls’ investigations she attracts the attention of a guy named Marlon (Mane Andrew), who sees her across a crowded dance floor. She is wearing a Twister dress and he tells his friend, “Dibs on the dots… damn!” He doesn’t waste time and hits on her immediately. For the rest of the film they are in a relationship and you can tell he’s absolutely crazy about her.

What I like about this is that it’s the “fat girl” who gets a boyfriend, not the classically cute, skinny girl in a lead or supporting role. Even better, it’s not like Hildenberg needs a boyfriend. It just happens.

There is also no evidence that Marlon is attracted to her simply because she’s heavy. I could see some viewers assuming that but it simply isn’t true. If you watch closely he goes after her in the same way a guy would pursue anyone else. He just likes her and decides to go for it, no questions asked.

5) Jessica’s Little Brother Is A Cross-Dresser

There are a few scenes featuring Jessica’s little brother, Booger (Matt Weinberg), who happens to dress like a girl in his down-time. Jessica is upset about this, but it’s only because he is using her things without asking.

Booger’s cross-dressing has no effect on his parents as well. Which is great. It shouldn’t be an issue, really. The family accepts him for who he is, and likewise Booger accepts Jessica after she switches bodies with Clive: “You’re my sister, and I accept you for who you are.”

There are suggestions that Booger may be struggling for acceptance at school. In his first scene he has a black eye from a neighbor kid, which Jessica covers with her make-up. It not only reveals that she cares about her little brother, but that she can actually be nice in general. It’s something she will have to try more when she isn’t able to coast on her looks.

6) April’s Parents Have The Worst Marriage Ever

While Jessica hides out at April’s house we get a glimpse of her April’s parents, Stan (Robert Davi) and Julie (Leila Kenzle). It becomes apparent that Julie is high-strung and possibly a closeted alcoholic. In the meantime her father wears a the same outfit every day and paints model airplanes. Seriously. Also, he thinks his wife is crazy.

Their scenes, although short and few, are some of the funniest in the movie: a portrait of a terrible marriage. We first see them when Julie suspects that April is “acting rather strange.” Stan responds with the only concern he’ll show in the whole movie:

“No!” Julie insists. “I think it’s her hormone development!” She goes on to say that April has been eating tons of food and covering her soap with body hair (in actuality, the hair is from the transformed Jessica). “Well? What do you think?” she asks him.

“I think you need more things to fill out your day,” he replies.

Julie doesn’t listen and continues to suspect something is going on. This only leads to trouble. While she eavesdrops on April’s answering machine she falls over a railing and lands on the family cat. Later on she decides she’s going to disrupt Prom and “get to the bottom” of things. Stan replies, “If you ruin April’s night, I will have you put away.”

Julie leaves anyway. Stan’s response is to return to painting his models with a vengeance, like “I’m going to paint the fuck out of these things.” He doesn’t need to do anything anyway. When Julie leaves the driveway she plows into a truck. Cut to: Stan in the living room, shaking his head as the car alarm sounds. And scene.

7) The Fall-Out: So What Does Gender Really Mean Anyway?

With such a silly premise, The Hot Chick manages to tackle some questions about gender and how we appear to others. Jessica often forgets what she looks like and behaves exactly as she would if things were normal. She is rather unapologetic about it, particularly with people she knows. This leads to some awkward moments when they don’t know she has changed.

Like this, for example:

At the same time, the movie gives us glimpses of Clive dealing with a woman’s body, which hasn’t come with a set of instructions. When he gets his first period it blows his mind:

The difference is that Clive is now an attractive girl. It’s easier to scam people because of the way he looks and it’s implied it’s easier to get laid. Clive may appear to be a brutally hot lesbian, but in reality he is a skeezy straight guy with no redeemable traits.

In the meantime, Jessica comes across as a rather unattractive gay man. Her manipulative and flirty behavior won’t get her anywhere; it disgusts everyone. She also doesn’t understand that there are rules for behaving like a man, which gets her into trouble. When she interacts with guys they have no idea where she’s coming from and things quickly go downhill from there:

This leads to some unexpected challenges. She isn’t used to hearing the way men talk to one another. She isn’t used to the shoulder punches. She doesn’t understand mens’ room etiquette or that when you hit someone you’re starting a fight.

She also doesn’t understand that as a man you can’t show your emotions, so she has to hide them from her male peers. At one point she is caught crying in the locker room and has to come up with an excuse.

Lastly, Jessica’s biggest challenge is wanting to reunite with her boyfriend, Billy (Matthew Lawrence), who has no idea what’s going on. He misses Jessica- we know that. He drives around town at night with the radio blaring, looking like this:

The problem is that he can’t accept Jessica as a man. When Jessica attempts to explain and kiss him he leaves her cold. “You always said you’d love me no matter what!” Jessica laments. “Bu… I… you’re a 30-year-old dude!” Billy shouts, running away.

Not surprisingly, Jessica is crushed:

Also not surprising: Matthew Lawrence isn’t attracted to Rob Schneider.

If you think about what you’ve seen, The Hot Chick reveals how much emphasis is put on appearances. Oftentimes we assume a person’s identity simply by looking at them. It could be assumed that Ling-Ling is black. It could be assumed that Clive is a girl and that Jessica is a man. But they’re not. They are more than that or they are someone else- something that occurs in real life.

Lastly, we have the #1 reason to see this movie:

8) TOOOM BRAAAADY

No, not that one. The other one. You don’t need to know much else about him other than these two things:

1) He directed The Hot Chick, and
2) He has the funniest IMDB bio ever.

I don’t know how he feels about directing this movie. When it was released the reviews were overwhelmingly negative. Richard Roeper noted, “I will say this for the film — it’s in color. And it was mostly in focus. And I really can’t say anymore for it beyond that.”

I guess I just did. The movie isn’t a masterpiece. The set-up is a stretch. Rob Schneider isn’t the most amazing actor alive. But yeah, it made me laugh. It made a lot of people laugh. I liked some of its ideas and how it tried to be different. It also features Adam Sandler in a cameo actually being funny, something I haven’t seen in at least ten years.

In fact, there’s a lot about this movie I’ve left out of this post. Other reasons why it’s funny, other characters and cameos and moments left on the cutting floor (Will Sasso, why?!). I just realized how much Tom Brady managed to pack into an hour and forty minutes.

I suppose that’s impressive. Other Tom Brady thinks so too:

That’s right. No shit.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s