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Overall Rating
1.45

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 5%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 30%
Total Crap65%

3 reviews, 2 user ratings


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Underclassman
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Where is Dave Chappelle when we need him most?"
1 stars

“Underclassman” plays less like a movie and more like the fever dream of an especially dull high-school student passing time in detention by fantasizing an adventure in which he gets to drive a lot of fast cars, score with the sexy Spanish teacher and kill the principal, who is naturally a hateful, drug-dealing murderer and has a British accent to boot. Since I suspect that most of us fantasized about those very same things in high school (although one wasn’t applicable in my case since the teachers in my high school were more likely to be found in the pages of “Beowulf” than “Maxim”), this isn’t necessarily a bad idea. Unfortunately, this particular version has been put together in a manner that seems dull-witted and slapdash even by the normal standards of late-summer shelf-cleaning studio dumps.

Clearly under the delusion that this film will do for him what “Beverly Hills Cop” did for Eddie Murphy (though it may wind up doing for him what “Beverly Hills Cop III” did for Murphy), Nick Cannon stars as a cocky bike cop who is desperate to prove himself as a hot-shot detective to his surly-but-understanding captain (played by Cheech Marin in the most startling turnaround for a counter-culture icon since Dennis Hopper turned Republican and directed “Colors”). To move the plot along, he is sent undercover at a posh high school to investigate the death of a student and a car-theft ring consisting of the school’s BMOC’s, led by Shawn Ashmore. This investigation takes the form of a jet-ski race, a number of “wild” parties, numerous scenes in which Cannon learns to take his work (both police and school) seriously, scenes in which he flirts with his hot tamale Spanish teacher (Rosalyn Sanchez) and scenes in which the requisite fate cop (Ian Gomez) suffers from digestive problems. Eventually, the bad guy behind it all gets bored with all the shenanigans and reveals himself to be . . . gasp! . . . the school principal. Of course, most everyone still awake in the theater has pretty much already guessed it because a.) all principals in movies of this sort are evil and b.) he is the only person in the film with a British accent, which we all know is shorthand for “evil” in this type of film.

Displaying all the twists and turns of an especially weak episode of “Scooby-Doo,” “Underclassman” flails around for 95 of the draggiest minutes that you could possibly encounter. Every single aspect of this project–from the direction (Marcos Siega, who went on to make the slightly-less-horrible “Pretty Persuasion”) to the acting to the cinematography and scoring–seem to have been done with the least effort possible, as if they all knew this was a dog and wanted to get through it as quickly as possible. The only one who makes more than a token effort is Cannon (who co-wrote the “original story”) but he goes too far overboard in the opposite direction. He flails around under the impression that the more obnoxious he acts, the more lovable he will seem–instead, he comes off so badly that not even Dave Chappelle’s son would find his antics amusing. (And between this, “The Man” and “The Skeleton Key,” I really wish that Chappelle hadn’t gone nuts because he could have had enough material for an entire season of shows right there.)

The only funny thing about “Underclassman” (which I believe is technically supposed to be a comedy) to be had here is that is will go down in film history as one of the last films to officially bear the once-proud logo of Miramax Films. The only mysterious thing about “Underclassman” (which I believe is also technically supposed to be a mystery) is how the studio that once gave us the likes of the Three Colors Trilogy, “The Piano” and “Pulp Fiction” could have ever thought that this chunk of not-fit-for-direct-to-video fodder could have ever been seen as something worth financing and (barely) distributing.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=13007&reviewer=389
originally posted: 09/09/05 13:31:25
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User Comments

7/03/06 BRUCE I THOUGHT THE MOVIE WAS PRETTY GOOD AND THE LADY COP BROOKS AND SPANISH TEACHER HELPED BRIG 4 stars
9/20/05 Jonathon Holmes unwatchable 1 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  02-Sep-2005 (PG-13)
  DVD: 17-Jan-2006

UK
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Australia
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