From “Some Like it Hot” to “Tootsie” to “Mrs. Doubtfire,” there is a grand tradition of movies where men disguise themselves as women. Every few years the idea gets rolled out again, and often without anywhere near the quality of the three films I just mentioned. Case in point…1987’s “He’s My Girl.”
The story concerns two guys living in a small Missouri town. Brian (David Hallyday) is the one with the talent, destined to become a rock star. His buddy Reggie (T.K. Carter) is his manager and an expert at squandering the small amounts of money Brian earns playing local gigs. One night, Reggie has the bright idea to spend all of the earnings on sending 600 postcards to a contest being run by a music video channel. The prize is a trip to LA, which Reggie figures is what they need to get Brian’s music in front of a record company bigwig. It turns out that they win the contest, so Brian and a guest are heading to Los Angeles. Only problem is, the guest has to be a girl. Why? Well, that’s never explained, but it’s reason enough for Reggie to become Regina.
Upon arriving, they meet VJ Mason Morgan (David Clennon) and his assistant Tasha (Misha McK). Mason just wants Tasha to get the two contest winners out of his way since he’s got his hands full trying to get an aging rocker, Simon Sledge (Warwick Sims), to hammer out a new hit. Of course Reggie finds himself quite attracted to Tasha, so he starts trying to juggle being Regina part of the time, and Reggie the rest of the time. He’s not very successful, continually missing dates with Tasha.
Meanwhile, Brian has also started to fall for a girl of his own, a waitress/sculptor named Lisa (Jennifer Tilly). While he’s off spending time at her beach house, he has no idea all the troubles Regina, er Reggie, is having. But it gets worse when, as Regina, he gives Tasha one of Brian’s demo tapes. Mason hears it, likes it, and then quickly steals the song…convincing Simon, who is suffering from writer’s block, that he, in fact, wrote the song while on a binge.
Before you know it, everyone is suspicious of everybody else. Tasha spots Reggie coming out of what she thinks is Regina’s room…so she thinks they are having an affair. Lisa becomes jealous when she thinks Brian is dating Regina…and then the slimy Mason starts to make advances toward Regina, too! Somehow the boys need to win their girls and make Brian a star before all is said and done.
I guess I shouldn’t be, but I really am surprised when the dressing up as the opposite sex thing comes up in movies over and over again. Rarely does it work. In this film, it doesn’t help that the premise is so weak to start with. Why Reggie has to become Regina just doesn’t make sense. Add to it that Carter is just not convincing as a woman. I mean, sure he looks a bit like Whitney Houston at the height of her crack is whack phase, but otherwise he ain’t foolin’ anyone. Even as Reggie, his performance struggles. He often seems to be going for an Eddie Murphy style, even doing a bad version of Murphy’s James Brown impression in one scene.
An often used plot device in cross-dress comedies is having situations where the lead character has to make quick changes…hurrying back and forth between playing the man and the woman in different situations. Here, those moments are thrown out by always having Reggie be a no-show for his dates with Tasha. Sure these type of scenes are overused in films like this, but here they really might have helped create some comedy. Instead the film just plods along.
About the only thing that makes this film bearable is the presence of Jennifer Tilly. Her character is fun and quirky, besides she was just so darn cute back then. I wish her role had been a much bigger part of the story, but as it is she only marginally factors in.
I suppose as long as we have movies, Hollywood will continue to do these dude-looks-like-a-lady comedies. It’s just too bad that for every “Tootsie” there’s 10 like “He’s My Girl.”