After watching the 1938 movie adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's 1913 Pygmalion directed by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard, I was struck by how similar this movie was to a 1999 movie directed by Robert Iscove called She's All That. The basic plot structures are very similar, but each movie presents a different twist on essentially the same story.
Pygmalion is the story of Eliza Doolittle (Wendy Hiller) and Henry Higgins (Leslie Howard). Through a quirky set of circumstances, Eliza comes to live with Professor Higgins in order to become "a lady." Higgins transforms Eliza from a common flower girl to a duchess through his intensive training in phonetics. Through this process, Higgins and Eliza form a strong bond of friendship that cannot be broken, even though the two often have their disagreements.
In She's All That, Zach Ziller (Freddy Prinze, Jr.) accepts a bet (much as Higgins accepts a bet from Colonel Pickering) to make Laney Boggs (Rachel Leigh Cook) the prom queen. As can be expected, Laney is the farthest thing from prom queen material, much like Eliza originally is the polar opposite of a duchess. Laney is what can be referred to as a "nerd," and much needs to be done in order to transform her as well. Zach successfully transforms Laney into the prom queen, but not without hurting her feelings first. This ultimately results in a severe disagreement, much like the one Higgins and Eliza have at the climax of Pygmalion. Therefore, Zach has to work to salvage the relationship, much as Higgins must plead with Eliza, since Zach has inevitably fallen in love with Laney.
Both Pygmalion and She's All That are basically based on the transformation of two ladies. These two ladies, Eliza and Laney, become the "ideal woman" of two men that aid in the transformations. Yet, both women possess a strong mind, individuality, and honor, all of which keeps them from changing what makes them unique. They refuse to let the men define who they are or who they will become.
This is why Pygmalion and She's All That are similar, even though the approaches to the two movies are somewhat different. She's All That is obviously set for the modern teenage audience, but that does not mean that it does not have as much meaning as the classical Pygmalion. These two movies show that the play Pygmalion has a universal meaning that many people can relate to in their life.