Directed by: Richie Keen
Starring: Charlie Day, Ice Cube, Tracy Morgan, Jillian Bell, Dean Norris, Christina Hendricks, Dennis Haysbert and Kumail Nanjiani
Run Time: 1H 31min
2 Frames out of 5
By: Shari K. Green
On the last day of the school year, all hell is breaking loose on school grounds. Students, especially those in the senior class, are playing pranks on all the members of the staff. They’re hiding things from their teachers, gluing items to their desks and getting down and dirty in an attempt to no doubt make their final high school day memorable… and possibly one-up the class that came before them. They’re especially cruel to Principal Tyler, Breaking Bad’s Dean Norris, even going so far as to disassembling his car and putting it back together again inside the school. There’s a lot going on in the background so don’t forget to pay close attention to what these wild youngsters have committed themselves to doing. Director Richie Keen, (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) spent the time looking up ways to make this realistic by researching pranks done by real students in the past. You’ll appreciate this attention to detail.
If you’re a fan of silly comedies, a fan of Charlie Day especially, you’ll want to check this out. He does an exceptional job portraying the kind and fair English teacher, Andy Campbell. When he rats on another teacher who loses his cool during class, Ron Strickland (Ice Cube), he is challenged to a fist fight and is now a man on the edge of a meltdown. This is a comedy, right? Well, the anger that comes from Strickland is so intense that you end up more or less feeling extremely sorry for Campbell which makes it hard to laugh to a large degree. Some may think this doesn’t work well for a comedy. Also, as far as character development goes, we never see any redeeming qualities coming from Strickland which may have helped you not dislike his character so much but unfortunately, as hard as you dig to find out where this anger is coming from, there’s simply nothing there.
Most eggs in Keen’s comedy basket relied on Day’s comedic abilities to hatch, both in a physical sense and how he conducts himself when he’s under pressure. His strained voice is always worth a chuckle and it’s a blast observing him try to save his butt. It’s also heartbreaking watching him; knowing the reason why the poor thing is running all over the place. He goes to teacher after teacher and even calls 911, looking for a helping hand. Some teachers he approaches are comedy gold. Allow me to first mention one character that shouldn’t have existed at all and that’s Christina Hendricks’, Ms. Monet. She comes out of nowhere and should have stayed there. She really only served one purpose and not very well at that. Keen did bring on Tracy Morgan (30 Rock) to be the stereotypical, simpleminded coach whose work here you’ll dig. He also cast the witty Jillian Bell (Brides Maids) as Holly, the guidance counselor who can’t wait until certain students she’s been ogling from afar become legal and Kumail Nanjiani as a security guard who’s afraid of his own shadow. These faculty members may have special talents in their own right but are of no use when it comes to advising someone on how to take a butt-whoopin’ or especially how to avoid it from happening. Campbell must solve this mystery on his own.
A charming piece of the story is by way of the lesson Campbell learns. I’m not speaking only of Andy but also of his daughter Ally (Alexa Nisenson). In the same way that he is dealing with a bully at work, we are introduced to this character who is discovering life to be miserable at her own school. When she finds the willpower to face her demons, by using a mic and the song I Don’t Give a F*ck by Big Sean, in a way you won’t soon forget, the movie finds the reason to be and is far better for it. When Campbell finally musters the strength to confront Strickland, Keen presents a fist fight that will allow you to forgive most of the jokes you saw coming and some of the unnecessary gags that didn’t work. When you see this, you’ll have fun picking out the obvious nods to films Keen must have liked, as well as his use of certain shots from them you may recognize. All of this notwithstanding I can’t promote you pay to see this opening weekend at the theatre unless you make it a matinee. Ultimately, the film has a good message regarding Campbells’ predicament. He was always walked on and treated as though his opinion didn’t matter but standing up to this challenge makes him a better man and, at long last, a better teacher.
Subsequently, whether he wins the fight or he loses doesn’t matter… it’s all about the journey that he takes. By the way, stay for the outtakes at the end.