Ex-"Saturday Night Live" cast member Rob Schneider is the latest in a long line of lowbrow comics who horrify higher-brows while delighting the less critical masses -- many of them too young to <I>have</I> brows.

Ex-“Saturday Night Live” cast member Rob Schneider is the latest in a long line of lowbrow comics who horrify higher-brows while delighting the less critical masses — many of them too young to have brows. Like the vehicles of his friend Adam Sandler, prior Schneider topliners “The Animal” and “Deuce Bigelow, Male Gigolo” proved surprise B.O. successes with Teflon-like resistance to grown-up disgust. There’s no reason to suspect “The Hot Chick” will play out differently — even if this gender-switch comedy almost makes “Deuce” look like “Shakespeare in Love.” Pic will provide a dum-dum fun multiplex alternative for domestic auds left cold by tonier holiday releases; robust ancillary biz should follow softer overseas exposure.

Brief prologue in Abyssinia, 50 A.D., provides a “Mummy”-like rationale for latter-day mischief, as a royal bride forced to marry a loutish king uses magic earrings to switch bodies with her maidservant, thus escaping wedding-night conjugal duty. Nearly two millennia later, the extreme brattiness of perfect blonde cheerleader and high school status queen Jessica Spencer (Rachel McAdams) is observed in a series of casual cruelties practiced on various geeks and proles. A comeuppance is portended in the most obvious fashion, just as incompetent thief Clive (Schneider) is seen independently cruisin’ for a cosmic bruisin’. And when Jessica shoplifts the ancient earrings at an African crafts store, then loses one of them in a run-in with low-life Clive, it takes just one night’s sleep to leave them both transformed, stuck in each other’s bodies.

Focus stays on princessy Jessica in slovenly Clive’s thirtysomething physique, a development that fills her with horror. (Clive-in-Jessica’s-bod stays mostly off-screen until the last reel.) Realizing she can’t stay at home, protag manages to convince best friend April (Anna Faris) of her real identity. Along with some girls who’d previously suffered Jessica’s snottiness, they pull together in an effort to reverse the spell before it’s too late.

Pic’s consists largely of gags based on sex stereotypes, particularly as defined by a 13-year-old’s sensibility. Principal notion is that girls are all about giggling and vanity, while guys are like, dude, gimme some more sports and beer and women in lingerie! Written by first-time director Tom Brady and Schneider (who’d previously collaborated on “The Animal”), pic offers cringingly “sincere” homilies to diversity to cover its stereotypical tracks. Thus, while a Mexican gardener is called “Tacquito,” a Korean mother depicted as an embarrassingly gauche fresh-off-boat type, and much of the comedy depends on the homophobia tacit in reactions to a guy acting “girly,” it all ends in ersatz warm fuzziness, with humbling life lessons about tolerance and acceptance.

“Hot Chick” is at best routinely assembled (that so-so ancient civilization prologue reps the last sign of any effort expended on the design package), at worst barely competent. The slapstick is labored, and the bigger setpieces flat. Story logic is lazy even by intentionally silly comic-fantasy standards: Jessica perennially “forgets” she looks like a man, just so pic can squeeze out another rote dude-acting-like-a-chick yuk.

Thesping is unremarkable. Adam Sandler does zilch to raise the bar with a tepid, attenuated cameo as a dreadlocked white stoner. Faris, so deft in the “Scary Movies,” goes wasted in an elementary dumb-blonde role. As for Schneider, he’s one of those born second bananas — amiable but not particularly versatile in characterizationor gifted as a physical clown–whom fate has grant top slot, for a while at least. His “feminine” act is exactly on the level of a bozo donning kitchen-mop “wig” and two Styrofoam-cup “breasts” after too many drinks at the office Xmas party. Which may be the point. Intent doesn’t make it any better, though.

Package is professionally adequate but mediocre down the line, complete with wall-to-wall forgettable rock soundtrack.

The Hot Chick

Production

A Buena Vista release of a Touchstone Pictures presentation. Produced by John Schneider, Carr D'Angelo. Executive producers, Adam Sandler, Jack Giarraputo, Guy Riedel. Co-producers, Nathan T. Reimann, Ian Maxtone-Graham. Directed by Tom Brady. Screenplay, Brady, Rob Schneider.

Crew

Camera (Technicolor, Panavision widescreen), Tim Suhrstedt; editor, Peck Prior; music, John Debney; music supervisor, Peter Afterman; production designer, Marc Fisichella; art director, Thomas O. Frohling; set designers, Glenn Williams, Camille Bratkowski; set decorator, Jon Danniells; costume designer, Alix Friedberg; sound (SDDS/Dolby Digital/DTS), Mark Ulano; supervising sound editors, Elmo Weber, David Bach; visual effects, Pixel Magic; associate producer, Robin Mulcahy Fisichella; assistant director, Cara Giallanza; second unit director, Greg Smrz; casting, Marcia Ross, Donna Morong, Gail Goldberg. Reviewed at Variety Club Screening Room, San Francisco, Nov. 21, 2002. MPAA rating: PG-13. Running time: 101 MIN.

With

Jessica - Rob Schneider April - Anna Faris Billy - Matthew Lawrence Jake - Eric Christian Olsen Stan - Robert Davi Carol - Melora Hardin Lulu - Alexandra Holden Jessica - Rachel Mcadams Keecia - Maritza Murray Mrs. Thomas - Fay Hauser Korean Mother - Jodi Long Venetia - Tia Mowry Sissy - Tamera Mowry Vice Principal Bernard - Lee Garlington Madam Mambuza - Angie Stone Booger - Matt Weinberg Julie - Leila Kenzle DJ - Michelle Branch Richie - Michael O'keefe Salesman - Adam Sandler
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