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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 6.25%
Average: 37.5%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 10 user ratings

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Graduation Day (2003)
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Chris Parry

"Take Chasing Amy out of Jersey, send it to Texas, remove a lesbian - voila!"
3 stars

When writer/director Kevin Smith became the biggest thing since the Rubiks Cube among teenage boys who wear Alice In Chains T-shirts, the independent film industry took a bit of a whack to the groin. Suddenly anyone with a talent at making his school buddies giggle in the back row decided he was as clever as Smith and could get duly famous by making pee-pee jokes. 95% of these kids were so far wrong it hurt to watch the results, but of the sea of Smith copiers over the last decade, Graduation Day is far from the worst of them. In fact, at times the film manages to win you over with the same sort of honest emotion that was so present in Smith's later work, Chasing Amy. At other times it has you laughing out loud. But then there's the rest of the film, a mix of giggles, clangers, characters you want to punch and an ending that seems like it will never arrive. The elements of something good are there, but you'd need to edit a good half hour out of the film to get the best out of them.

Chapple (McCaleb Burnett) is a good looking office drone who is about to marry Stephanie, a great looking vivisectionist... which isn't bad as far as ways to enter your late 20's go. But there's a problem in Chapple's past; a girl named Maddie, who he was once into, duly snubbed by, and has been the great white whale of his libido ever since.

And of course Maddie's back in town just in time for the wedding.

So Chapple has a decision to make; go ahead and marry the gorgeous animal killer or ditch her at the altar and take a shot at the unbelievably gorgeous but completely vapid torment of his teenage years?

I should have such options.

So Chapple's buddy Glenn (Mark Reeb) enters the scene and offers up his take on things, which is probably advice best avoided being as Glenn only just moved out of home, has been working at the local cineplex since high school, and just got dumped by his first and only girlfriend. Still, someone has to play 'Randall' in this mix, and Mark Reeb is a guy who is well equipped to fill the bill. If Burnett's acting ability sometimes struggles to sell the scene, Reeb's certainly doesn't. The guy can deliver a deadpan line like an old stand-up pro, and he's given plenty of opportunity to prove it.

In fact, as time wears on in Graduation Day, Reeb manages to all but steal the show from his lead, which is possibly a concern when you're billing the show as a romantic comedy and Reeb';s character is the Anti-Romantic. To be sure, the emotion runs deep in this script and is generally well-written, but the on-screen chemistry is shallow at best. Now, Glenn and Maddie, that might have made for an interesting rom-com, but Chapple spends so much time moping and whining in this flick that you'd swear you were watching the story of Luke Skywalker's first high school break-up, or my parents talking about how I could have been someone if I'd only taken that office job with Weird Uncle Bill's vaccum cleaner repair business when I finished high school.

But I digress.

Note to Chapple: You're marrying the hottie to end all hotties. Deal! Leave Maddie for the rest of us to pine after, you self-obsessed swine!

Director Matt Cade has a couple of issues that I'm sure are closer to being addressed now that Graduation Day is in the bag than they were when he started out. The first issue is, dude, you have to be ruthless in the editing suite. This flick goes way longer than it should, threatening to wear out its welcome time and again before just being draaaaaagged back into the realm of 'interesting'. If it were quicker, it could only be better.

Second, don't fall into that frequent Smith trap of putting two characters against a flat background. It just never turns out well for anyone.

And lastly, sometimes you just have to let the grossest 5% of your gags go. There's an audience that digs them, but there's a far bigger audience that rolls their eyes and says "See? I told you we should have rented Bridges of Madison County again."

Oh, and I probably don't need to mention it, but the sound in this flick was terrible. Some of the looped scenes sounded like they were filmed in a Tijuana telephone booth, others I'm sure were picked up from alien space transmissions in the Mojave Desert. I gather there were some sound issues with a lot of the original footage, in which case you can only make the best of a bad situation, but it's REALLY distracting, especially early on.

Now of course these guys are out to garotte me and use my lower intestine as a fan belt, which is fine and dandy. My job is to be critical, not heap fake praise, and Graduation Day does have some issues - this is something nobody could deny - but it's not all bad. In fact, as a first real stab at a feature film, it's a worthy effort - right up there with the top of the graduating class. You've got to learn somewhere, and as a learning experience I'm positive that Reeb and Cade are wiser for what they've been through with Graduation Day and will only take that knowledge to bigger and better things.

And that's just the point - they need to learn how this film could have ended up better than just pretty damn good, and hopefully reviews like this will help them do just that, because they DO have a future in film. Graduation Day is certainly worth a rental, especially if you like the work of the Smith lad. It's an honest effort, a great result for a low budget, low experience production, and I'll wager that the team behind it is well worth a bigger bankroll, a little mentoring and a chance at the brass ring.

I mean, shit, if Bret Ratner can get work, these guys are a better than average shot at making it Spielberg big.

Oh, and Maddie is REALLY hot. Call me.

The Had To Be Made Volume 2 DVD that this film can be found on is available at all good US independent video stores right now, and more information on the HTBM Fest can be found at This disc also contains two shorts, both of which are outstanding. Compulsory Breathing, a story about two people who want to kill themselves but only have one gun, is a tragic yet funny piece directed by David Munro, and Untitled 003: Embryo, directed by Mike Goedeke, is one of the best shorts I've seen in years. In fact, I honestly enjoyed it the same as I would a good feature film. Great effects, great flick. All in all, a fantastic DVD that you should go rent right now. Support independent cinema AND independent video stores and give this one a shot.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 05/15/03 16:31:07
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: Had To Be Made Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Had To Be Made Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

5/31/05 Chondrule Freedman If I had a baby I'd name it Graduation Day. 5 stars
4/15/05 Michelle beautiful idea 5 stars
6/14/03 B. Meeker Well directed, great subtle music, original script = Suprisingly good 5 stars
6/03/03 J. Lester Great Writing + Actual Actors = Impressive Indie 4 stars
5/30/03 Sandra Flanagan Tears of sorrow, tears of laughter, mostly laughter :-) 5 stars
5/28/03 mike meyers the hottest girls and the funniest dialogue in years 5 stars
5/25/03 connie I loved it!!!!I'm his mother, of course 5 stars
5/24/03 Hans P.W. Very Funny! ( Especially Mark Reeb) 5 stars
5/24/03 dustin younse outstanding freshman effort 5 stars
5/24/03 Tim Burds I haven't laughed this hard at a film in years! 5 stars
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  01-Mar-2003 (NR)



Directed by
  Matt Cade

Written by
  Matt Cade

  McCaleb Burnett
  Mark Reeb
  Meredith McCoy
  Grant James

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