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Overall Rating

Awesome: 11.11%
Worth A Look: 11.11%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad66.67%
Total Crap: 11.11%

1 review, 3 user ratings

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New Port South
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by Scott Weinberg

"Nepotism is easy; screenwriting is hard."
2 stars

If you thought John Hughes, as a young screenwriter in the mid-80's, held some mild disdain for what he saw as "parental authority figures," it's clear that his son James has that same perspective ... only multiplied by about 10,000.

The senior Hughes is done with mocking adults, and he now makes a healthy living writing remakes of 101 Dalmatians and Miracle on 34th Street... to say nothing of the copious royalties that come with each successive Beethoven or Home Alone sequel. That leaves James Hughes to start off where dear old Dad did - in the high school trenches. Movie fans of my generation were fortunate that John Hughes at least had a sense of humor about his tales of Teen Angst. But if this low-minded and painfully simplistic posture-fest is any indication of the younger Hughes' talent level... heís better off just living off the family nest egg.

As I sat through New Port South, dozens of involuntary adjectives flew across my mind: pretentious, ponderous, belabored, self-important, confused, muddled, drab, and uninteresting. There were several more, but I think you get the point. Imagine someone telling you a long and elaborate joke, but instead of ending with a satisfying punchline, the person just mutters "never mind" and slowly walks away. That's the feeling you'll get as the credits roll on this one; plus the set-up wasnít all that interesting anyway, so itís unlikely that any conceivable punchline would have satisfied. New Port South is, in one distasteful fashion, very much like pap films like Patch Adams and I Am Sam: youíre supposed to sympathize with the allegedly misunderstood protagonist(s), yet at every turn you find yourself siding with the purported villains.

The plot involves a trio of disaffected high school boys and their impatience with the schoolís rulebook. They spout anti-conformist and pro-individuality rhetoric like they just overheard Dad talking about politics at the dinner table. One particular teacher is painted in the most cartoonishly evil shade this side of a Rocky & Bullwinkle short, and each student butts heads with him in typically one-dimensional style. (That all the students in this film are clear-thinking intellects and all adults are temperamental, insensitive boors is a clear indication of how well shaded the script is.) Inspired by a juvenile delinquent who vandalized the school four years earlier, Maddox and his two buddies take to spreading the hallways with anti-authority propaganda and basically whining like petulant babies. (This just in: School is where you go to learn, not a democratic political microcosm in which to decry your lack of individual creativity. If the poster for New Port South had any truth to it, it would read "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing".)

The petty crimes go on for much longer than youíd expect, which is fairly odd considering that the school administrators are well aware of who's behind it. (One of several plot gaps delivered by first-time director, longtime "opening credits supervisor" Kyle Cooper.) The ringleaders lead a hysterically anti-dramatic walkout one afternoon during a fire alarm, cast vicious aspersions on otherwise amiable school faculty, and ultimately end up locking themselves in an office. Yeah, thatís the big finale. Aside from the generally poor acting performances, painfully schizophrenic screenplay, and an overall tone of cocksure adolescent smugness (that makes the entire film a bitter pill indeed), the biggest flaw in New Port South is its hypocritical and surreally incongruous finale.

The cast (save one performance by actor-turned-director Todd Field) is uniformly generic, with lead malcontent Blake Shields delivering a wholly unpleasant presence every time heís onscreen. Itís plain to see why New Port South was made; itís the debut screenplay from the son of a big-time moneymaking filmmaker. Itís also plain to see why New Port South was never released theatrically (aside from a limited run in the Hughes hometown of Chicago, Ill.)

Itís a charmless turkey. As a screenwriter, James Hughes has two viable options ahead of him: ask Pop to teach him how to make with the funny stuff, or start writing remakes of "101 Dalmatians" and "Miracle on 34th Street".

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originally posted: 04/02/05 16:53:37
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User Comments

9/29/07 tony reeves it has lots of flaws, but also grips. Also has an excellent hip-hop music soundtrack. 4 stars
11/25/01 Marnie This movie was the worst film I have ever seen. I can't even belive I payed to see it. 1 stars
11/06/01 Alex Martin This was one of the most intense teen Dramas I have ever seen. I would like to see more ma 5 stars
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  07-Sep-2001 (PG-13)



Directed by
  Kyle Cooper

Written by
  James Hughes

  Blake Shields
  Will Estes
  Kevin Christy
  Todd Field
  Melissa George
  Brad Eric Johnson

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