For most male millennials, Christina Ricci was either the little sister they’d never had or the friend-who-was-a-girl they were always hanging out with. You could find these platonic pairs watching movies together, cracking jokes in the back of the classroom, or rollerblading in the street during the traffic-less summer days. Because Ricci’s resume mostly consisted of family-friendly films like Casper and The Addams Family at the time, this comes as no surprise. But this all changed when The Opposite of Sex came out in 1998.
Everyone knows where they were and what they were doing when Ricci introduced them to girls “in that way.” Bored at home on a Saturday, you decided to watch the latest movie your parents had rented from Blockbuster the night before. DVDs had been available in the U.S. for a year, but VHS tapes were still the industry standard. This meant fast-forwarding through all the previews.
And then you saw it — flashes of skin, actors and actresses posed in unfamiliar yet intriguing positions, and…wait a minute. Is that Wednesday Addams?
What the hell is going on? Rewinding the tape to watch previews borders on blasphemy, but further investigation provided ample reason for it. Besides, you just had to know — was that Christina Ricci wearing a bikini?
Yes, yes it was. A few cuts later, she upped the ante by bedding a man while wearing even more revealing clothes (or none at all). This was the trailer for The Opposite of Sex, which combined several shots of heterosexual and homosexual sex, teen pregnancy, gun violence, various illegal acts, and piercings in sensitive places into a smorgasbord of male teenage angst. The rental didn’t matter anymore. You just wanted to watch this trailer over and over again.
Newly hormonal teenage boys weren’t the only ones to notice this onscreen maturation. Several critics took note of the young actress’s transition, especially Roger Ebert. Writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, Ebert gave the film three stars and praised Ricci’s performance:
DeDee (the name may relate to her bra size) is played by Christina Ricci, who is having a very good year, and has left all memories of “The Addams Family” far behind with roles in movies like “The Ice Storm” and “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” Here she shows a cocky, smart-aleck side. She’s the kind of actress who makes an audience sit up and take notice, because she lets us know she’s capable of breaking a movie wide open.
Ebert thoroughly enjoyed the film, and Ricci in it (not to mention his nominal joke about cup size). Other reviewers picked up on the same vibes, but also pinpointed another telling aspect of the film. Such was the case of Janet Maslin at The New York Times:
Christina Ricci has morphed enchantingly from wicked little Wednesday of the “Addams Family” comedies into Lolita’s evil twin. Voluptuous and scheming in Don Roos’s gleefully acerbic comedy “The Opposite of Sex,” she plays the nasty little baggage named Dedee whose sexual chicanery and self-interest know no bounds. Neither does Mr. Roos’s barbed humor as he mocks preconceptions about straight and gay life styles with total abandon, rude epithets and all. What redeem the film’s surface bitterness are sharp observations, laceratingly funny dialogue and something Dedee claims to find especially loathsome: a secret heart of gold.
Not only were male millennials rethinking their relationship with Ricci (and pretty much all girls after that), they were also exposed to homosexuality, complicated sexual and non-sexual relationships between men and women, and many other subjects most would otherwise deem “outside the mainstream.” Sure, this was all in the context of repeated trailer viewings and repeated attempts to pause particular moments, but “Roos’s barbed humor” about these topics was laced throughout.
Despite the trailer’s popularity, most didn’t watch the film. The $5 million spent on the movie by Sony Picture Classics returned just under $6 million at the box office, yet the reviews were (and still are) phenomenal. In addition to Ebert and Maslin’s takes, contemporary scores at Rotten Tomatoes (80 percent) and Metacritic (70 meta rating) sit quite high. In other words, the film is much better than the trailer — despite the preview’s popularity with a certain audience whom the MPAA didn’t want to see the film.
If the trailer still satisfies your curiosity, then count your blessings — YouTube doesn’t require the use of complex combinations utilizing the rewind, fast-forward, play, and pause buttons. But if you want to watch the film itself, it’s available for streaming on Amazon. Just know that you’ll never be able to watch The Addams Family or Casper with the same innocence you once had in the ’90s.