Movies + TV

From One to Another

Movie makeovers: the good, the bad, and the butterflies.

She's All That, Teen Wolf

It’s hard to get a transformation right. Mattel got it right. Butterflies do it pretty damn well. They make it look sooo easy, too, what with their chrysalides and going from awkward caterpillar to beautiful butterfly, BUT GUESS WHAT, BUTTERFLIES? You’re just caterpillars that can land on people’s faces! And what was I talking about? Oh, yeah, transformations. They happen to everyone, but especially to people in movies. For some, it means taking their glasses off and realizing they are suddenly hot (which, in real life, happens approximately…never). For others, it means enduring puberty, turning into a vampire, or being encouraged to stop wearing so much black (see the pinkification of both Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club and Clea DuVall in The Faculty). I present to you “Shelby’s Best and Worst Film Transformations, and Her Opinion is Very Important.” We’re work-shopping the title.

BEST

Teen Wolf (1985)
A touching coming-of-age story about a high school basketball player named Scott Howard (Michael J. Fox) who must balance school, sports, family, friends, and being a werewolf. Despite that seemingly mocking description, I have serious love for this movie because it works as an exaggerated metaphor about how freaky puberty is. At first Scott’s changes scare him, but then he embraces them and ends up becoming an amazing athlete. That scene where he asks his dad, “Why didn’t you tell me about this?,” and his dad says, “Sometimes it skips a generation”? His dad just has this look on his face like, “I’m so sorry, I guess I just wanted to protect you from growing up for as long as possible.” Tears on my face. Every time.

Rocky (1976)
The movie montage is the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled. It has taken me literally YEARS to realize that my room will never be cleaned within the course of a three-minute pop song, or that I’ll never engage in a series of wacky misadventures set to yakety sax. But I do believe that Rocky got back into shape with the help of the most triumphant tune recorded in all of history. He goes from washed-up schlub to fighting-form in a series of one-armed pushups, dead animal punches, and melodramatic stair-climbing. His process almost inspired me to work out! Or at least do eight sit-ups and then watch Star Wars. And, sure, there’s a montage in II, III, and IV, but nothing can compare to the original.

Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
Besides being a ZANY comedy (Robin Williams dresses as a lady!) wrapped around a heartbreaking center (all he wants is to be a part of his kids’ lives!), Mrs. Doubtfire boasts one hell of a transformation. After a few missteps, in which Williams parades around in various wigs and prosthetics for his makeup-artist friend, he does kind of look like a lady in the end. And while “kind of” does not seem like a ringing endorsement, this is Robin Williams we’re talking about. Lumpy, hairy, un-buxom Robin Williams. For him to come out the other side even a little feminine knocks my socks off. My feet get VERY cold watching this movie.

Mulan (1998)
Yo, can I take a second to just say how straight-up badass Mulan is? When her aging dad is drafted into the Chinese army, Mulan pretends to be a boy and takes his place instead. She leaves her family, trains for war, fights a war, survives a war, then saves her entire people from the invading Huns. And she rocks a bob. On the surface, her transition from obedient daughter to butt-kicker involved nothing more than a haircut and a change of clothes, but these minor adjustments gave her a chance to unleash the warrior within.

The Princess Diaries (2001)
OK, this flirts with a She’s All That snafu (see below). The filmmakers at least tried to make Anne Hathaway look believably awkward before the big reveal (although it takes more than frizzy hair and a unibrow). But what I love about The Princess Diaries is how reluctant Mia (Hathaway) was to be made over. She lets it happen, however, because it’s her DUTY to the (fictional) country she now runs to be classy and elegant, but in the process, she risks losing her best friend, Lilly (Heather Matazzaro). Oh, who are we kidding? Maybe I just want to be a princess.

The House Bunny

WORST

She’s All That (1999)
You can’t accuse me of hating on a makeover. Quite frankly, they’re fun. You hit that point in life where you realize hair products exist and so do contacts and, hey, you can wear makeup to subtly enhance natural features. Great! What I find so upsetting about She’s All That is how pretty Laney (Rachael Leigh Cook) is before the transformation. Her hair is thick and shiny. Her skin is clear. Her clothing is idiosyncratic, and she has to WORK, so don’t blame her for the falafel outfit. So the idea that Freddie Prinze Jr. would have his hands full trying to turn her into a prom queen and win a bet is an insult to—well, women everywhere, but especially those of us who do not look like Rachael Leigh Cook. I don’t know where they live, but glasses on a brunette (or anyone) have always looked good on this planet.

Grease (1978)
You think I’m going to talk about how Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) goes from a goody-goody to a chain-smoking, leather-wearing babe, don’t you? But no! Almost no one remembers those 10 minutes where Danny tried to change. For about three scenes, he ditched the leather jacket, threw on some wrestling spandex, and tried to prove he could be as wholesome as Sandy wanted. We could ask the same of him as we could of Sandy: is it OK to experiment with change for the person you love, or must you be firm in your identity? I’m not sure. Greaser Danny had it going on. Letterman Danny? Not so much.

Watchmen (2009)
Dr. Manhattan’s transformation is perhaps the most extreme on this list. Going from a mild-mannered physicist (played by Billy Crudup) to a naked blue deity with superpowers doesn’t sound like such a bad thing. But the change causes him to lose his job, his girlfriend, and his freedom as he’s quickly hustled into working for the government. Worst of all, he sees the past, present, and future, and he’s thousands of IQ points smarter than any other human—except for perhaps Ozymandias, a former ally who wants to save the world by maybe destroying it. Imagine having to relive the disco era repeatedly knowing there’s still one evil guy out there who’s just a tiny bit better at Sudoku than you.

The House Bunny (2008)
Remember that movie where Anna Faris plays a ditzy blond with impeccable comedic timing? No, the other one. No, not that one. This one! When Faris, as a former Playboy bunny, becomes the house mother at an unpopular sorority, she gives all the girls full makeovers. They’re squeezed into the tightest tops, shortest shorts, or highest heels possible, and they look so uncomfortable (probably because they’re so uncomfortable). I’m tempted to say that the transformation goes in the right direction towards the end (see here), but only because everyone seems to gain a lot of confidence from being totally generic and well-groomed. I’m not having it.

In conclusion, I would like to leave you with this scene in A Bug’s Life, the only caterpillar-to-butterfly transformation that I condone. Change is good. Sometimes. ♦

32 Comments

  • thekidsarealright April 25th, 2012 11:23 PM

    Is it just me or are a lot of the “best” transformations ones that involve a boy or transforming into more traditionally male roles and the “worst” are the ones in which women are transformed into more traditionally female roles?

    • Natalie. April 26th, 2012 2:02 AM

      That’s my first thought too.

    • anonymouse April 26th, 2012 4:33 AM

      Yeah except for Ms. Doubtfire, The Princess Diaries, Grease, and Watchmen. So, a little over half. I actually don’t agree with Ms. Doubtfire or Watchmen, though…

    • lorobird April 26th, 2012 12:28 PM

      I don’t know… I think it’s more that in Grease, She’s All That and The House Bunny the makeovers are exclusively about making these women “attractive”, by sexualizing them. In all these movies, the value of the protagonist ends up being her “fuckability”, pardon my French, at the expense of her former, shyer, equally feminine (b/c it’s not like they weren’t women before with womanly occupations) but not overtly sexual.

      Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with dressing in whatever way we see fit, but all these women are undergoing to makeover to fit a certain ideal society has of women, an ideal that places value in their appearance as sexual objects. It’s not their choice, in order to explore their own sexualities and so on, it’s changes undergone to attract men and fit into a certain stereotype.

      Whilst in the “best” category, Mia in the Princess Diaries gets a makeover to make herself “pretty” but this goes along with learning things to be a woman of a relative power and responsibility (so as well as learning etiquette, she has to learn politics and history because she’s going to be Head of State one day).

      And I think the point of Mulan is that being a kick-ass intelligent soldier it’s not a “masculine” job. She has to fit into a certain stereotype to prove this truth, but she also bends the rules and uses her intellect instead of brute force. And at the end she gets the guy and probably marries him anyway, so I’m not sure how much of a role-bender she is in any case.

  • Anna F. April 25th, 2012 11:27 PM

    but she wears GLASSES

  • Sterling87 April 25th, 2012 11:53 PM

    Totally cracked me up, I agree with all EXCEPT Grease. Grease should never be on a “Worsts” list.

  • KinuKinu April 26th, 2012 12:13 AM

    ROCKYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It’s funny you mention ROCKYYYYYY because just yesterday,My family had a rocky MARATHON!!!Watched the second movie twice.Yeah.I know.We’re lame.I make fun of all the montages in 80′s movies.I love Rocky.Hence the marathon yesterday.That theme song is like my life.
    I love Watchmen,too.Me and my dad read the philosophy of watchmen the other day.Typing this makes me realize that I have a very nerdy family.Mulan is ultimate bad-ass.I loved that movie.TEEN WOLF. Love that movie so much.Mrs.Doubtfire…….I LOVE THAT MOVIE!!! Rookie writers spy on me.I know it.

  • Tyknos93 April 26th, 2012 12:15 AM

    Heather Matarazzo will always be Dawn Wiener in my heart.

    http://blazoningpens.blogspot.com/

    oh and that thing about the glasses… http://nozombiesplease.tumblr.com/post/21813744294/this-post-is-beautiful

    TRUE.

  • Adrienne April 26th, 2012 12:24 AM

    Yes! I love the Mulan and Rocky choices!

    http://theaverageasingirl.blogspot.com

  • staceyk April 26th, 2012 1:21 AM

    BUT HOUSE BUNNY WAS GENIUS

    • anonymouse April 26th, 2012 4:34 AM

      I hate to disagree, but no. :]

  • mayaautumn April 26th, 2012 2:18 AM

    oh myyyyy. you’ve just reminded me of Mulan! i used to watch it when i was about five or six ALL the time! thinking about it, that’s probably what ‘transformed’ me into a tomboy.. and that stage lasted for about two years!!! but i transformed back probably by watching various other films….like the princess diaries?!?! yer; i just LOVE mrs doubtfire too! these lists are great & bring back quite a few memories :)

    http://cottonmixblog.blogspot.co.uk

  • MissKnowItAll April 26th, 2012 6:00 AM

    What about “She’s The Man”

  • coolschmool April 26th, 2012 6:46 AM

    lol dude you managed to give away the entire plot twist of watchmen in like three lines ~spoiler alert~

  • starcollector April 26th, 2012 7:19 AM

    I watched that Bug’s Life clip at least three times…. that movie used to be my life in third grade :’) “I’M A BEAUTIFUL BUTTERFLY!”

    http://china-lily.blogspot.com/

  • jessimariano April 26th, 2012 7:46 AM

    oh, how i loved mulan ♥

  • Minnah April 26th, 2012 8:17 AM

    The best transformation/makeover sequence is hands down from St Trinians, though.

  • 3LL3NH April 26th, 2012 8:38 AM

    I LOVE this article. And I think your comment on She’s All That is hilarious because when I saw the article, I was like, “who is that gorgeous person in the glasses?” Because she is beautiful, and needs no changing!

    One more thing: My Fair Lady

    • Violet April 26th, 2012 5:20 PM

      YESSSSS!!! was thinking exactly the same thing !!!

      My Fair Lady is amongst the most beautiful and enchanting movies ever made.
      Audrey Hepburn going from tomboy to princess.

      Oh, and also Roman Holiday!!!
      Audrey Hepburn going from princess to tomboy.

      Does it get any better than this? :)

      Love,
      V

  • starsinyourheart April 26th, 2012 9:19 AM

    god i LOVE this site.
    i thought the girl with glasses was the AFTER she was waaay more stunning with glasses on :)

  • erin April 26th, 2012 11:42 AM

    The princess diaries is so good! I mean, I should have something bad to say about it, but I can’t, I just can’t. Love!
    http://keepingupwithunstuck.blogspot.com/

  • MaggietheCat April 26th, 2012 1:50 PM

    I watched Mrs. Doubtfire last year and bawled my eyes out. It’s so touching!

  • Ellie April 26th, 2012 1:56 PM

    I LOVE The Princess Diaries and Mulan. Mulan IS a badass,

  • obeykid April 26th, 2012 2:16 PM

    Where’s Cady Heron?

  • teenager April 26th, 2012 3:40 PM

    ❤ ❤ ❤ Mulan ❤ ❤ ❤

  • Mariann April 26th, 2012 9:40 PM

    Uhm in Watchmen, Dr. Manhattan changed by accident in the Intrinsic field subtractor. That example seemed to me kinda out of place. Also for some people who haven’t seen it, well, it gives a lot in the description xD.

    But I agree with movies such as She’s all that and House Bunny! I always thought Rachel Leigh Cook looked very pretty no matter she had glasses or not. But I guess these kinds of movies were made to later make fun of them and remarking the silliness and shallowness of beauty image in teen hollywood flicks. I guess.

  • elizabethmarley April 26th, 2012 9:59 PM

    In all seriousness, I LOVE She’s All That. Love it. I think I love it so much that I see it through rose colored glasses?

    Yes, Laney is already totally hot before her makeover, but I think the point of her being chosen as Zach’s makeover subject is that she’s totally off-putting and alienating (and she likes it that way!). And throughout the movie, she STAYS pretty off-putting and alienating, but I think she also has a moment where she says “Screw this. I’ve spent nearly four years being an outcast and I want to see how the other half lives.” She sort of has fun with it? And even though Zach has tricked her into it, she actually does “popular” on her own terms and without changing who she really is on the inside.

    Maybe I’m crazy? I just really, irrationally love She’s All That.

  • telethon April 30th, 2012 5:54 AM

    What about television too? I live in Egypt and MTV is always showing that sickening show Plane Jane.. basically if you just change your looks you can have the dream date in a dress and heels with the guy you couldn’t previously feel confident enough around to tell you’ve been diggin’. I mean I like that they get to do new things to help them get over fears or whatever.. that’s the good part about it but why is appearance such a big deal (obviously I know why.. marketing blah blah blah.. but still?) Aren’t we past that yet? Anyways..

  • cakethepop June 10th, 2012 6:57 PM

    I see what you are sayin….

  • daliciak July 6th, 2012 10:23 AM

    How is Tai from CLUELESS not on this list?

  • TheAntiClimaticChicken June 19th, 2013 12:05 PM

    I don’t know why but my favorite makeover is from St. Trinians.