[box cover]

Underclassman

Once in a great while — usually late August — a movie comes along that's so lame, it doesn't deserve a bad review. It deserves a war-crimes tribunal. Ladies and gentlemen, Underclassman (2005) is that special film. The movie purports to be an action comedy about a smart-mouthed, African-American bike cop (Nick Cannon) who goes undercover as a student at a mostly white private high school to solve the murder of the school paper's investigative reporter. Yes, high-school papers are now apparently employing investigative reporters. (and you can tell the murdered kid was prepping for a life in journalism — he had bad hair, lurked in the bushes with a notebook, and drove a scooter.) Anyway: Think "21 Jump Street" meets Beverly Hills Cop — only stupider. Cannon spews quips like a wannabe, Diet-Sprite Axel Foley. He flirts creepily with his super-hot Spanish teacher (Roselyn Sanchez). (A sample of their banter: Her: "¿Yo no sé?" Him: "You no say what?") And he stumbles into lazy action scenes incorporating jet-skis, paintball guns, Porsches, and a boat that explodes when it grazes the world's most combustible pile of rope. Cannon seems like a nice enough kid, but he just doesn't have the charisma to carry this sort of movie. His one-liners fall so flat you can almost hear the crickets chirping. (At one point, he wonders aloud if an arroyo bush is "the president's ugly cousin.") And it's been a while since this many screenwriters embraced this many clichés of the '80s Cop Flick — and managed to make every single one of them this insulting. Imagine every hoary old chestnut you've ever seen in a cop movie, especially one where an African-American comedian makes fun of uptight morons during the course of his investigation. Have you got your angry police chief? Your bickering partners? Your racial and fat jokes? Tons of "hilarious" insubordination? A final gunfight in a warehouse? A lame post-suspension redemption for the hero, who somehow became a cop without a high-school diploma? Okay. Now. Twist all those clichés into new knots of stupidity. Underclassmen is worse. It's the sort of movie where a police officer files arrest reports that contain the word "Boo-yah!" Where a preppy white kid (Johnny Lewis) tries to connect with Cannon by saying, cringe-inducingly, "You got some angry skills, dawg!" Where Cannon, eating seafood at a fancy restraurant, says, "In my old neighborhood, gettin' crabs meant something totally different!" Where one cop farts, belches, and takes a squat in the bushes during a surveillance — only to have the camera immediately cut to a dancing teenager's shaking booty, which is arguably the least-sexy juxtaposition in cinema history. Buena Vista/Miramax presents Underclassman in a good anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 Surround audio. Extras include a commentary track with director Marcos Siega and screenwriters David T. Wagner and Brent Goldberg, the featurette "The Making of Underclassman" (7 min.), four brief auditions reels, and 15 deleted scenes with optional commentary and a "play all" feature. Keep-case.
Mike Russell



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