SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL REVIEWS - HIGH SCHOOL
by Paul Fischer
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Director - John Stalberg Jr.
There’s a reason why the stoner comedy has not had much of a resurgence in recent years: they’re simply not very good. Enter High School, another low brow comedy that does little to enhance the reputation of a sub genre that reaches the lowest common denominator and then some. In this film, hypocritically conservative high school principal Gordon (Michael Chiklis) has suddenly instituted a zero-tolerance crusade against his nemesis, the reviled marijuana and a mandatory drug test for all students is about to be undertaken, and failure will result in immediate expulsion. Normally, this would be of no consequence to straight-arrow soon-to-be valedictorian Henry Burke, except he just tried ganja for the very first time. With his college scholarship hanging in the balance, Burke unwillingly teams up with perpetual pothead Travis Breaux to do the only thing they can think of to neutralize this threat—get the entire student body stoned.
The opening of High School is filled with such promise as during a spelling bee one of the spelling champs had just smoked a joint which effects her spelling with hilarious results. After that it’s downhill all the way. The trouble is, co-writer/director John Stalberg has written a script abundant with clichés that sets back the genre 10 years. Dialogue seems forced and acting so overdone that any semblance of comedy is gradually dissipated. The result is a clumsy work that is amateurish resembling a collage of high school skits rather than a cohesive comedy. Stalberg does demonstrate a certain degree of visual flair but the film has sporadic moments of originality. Poor Michael Chiklis such a talent has little to offer here but a very comically strained performance while Adrien Brody tries far too hard. The younger actors, Matt Bush and Sean Marquette in particular are much better and have stronger careers in front of them.
While commercial prospects for High School are strong, because low brow cinema remains popular, that means little as the film still has limited appeal. Silly, trite and instantly forgettable, High School begins with such promise and collapses shortly therafter.
Paul Fischer is originally from Australia. Now he is an interviewer and film critic living in Hollywood.
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