Every so often there comes a time of self-reflection for each us; a time to take stock of the decisions that we have made in our lives. For many this comes upon the birth of a child, at which point you start connecting the dots, the random occurrences that led you to the moment where you are staring into the eyes of a human vessel to carry every ounce of your love. For others this may include a visit to the local jail, time spent wondering how everything got to this point. Well, tonight I watched a film that has shook my entire worldview and has me pondering some serious existential stuff. That film? High School.
High School brings us into the world of Henry Burke, a young man entering the final days of his senior year. Intent on acing his finals so he can graduate valedictorian and qualify for a scholarship to MIT, he has an unfortunate lapse in judgment and smokes a joint with his former best friend, Breaux, the day before the school principal (Michael Chiklis of The Shield fame) announces a school-wide drug screening/expulsion plan.
There are hundreds of talented people wandering the streets of America that have a dream in their heart. These are people that could very well offer an entirely different and new way to view the world. Among them could be the next Kubrick, or Altman, or even Godard. Instead of any of these talents being given free rein to make a masterpiece, someone gave directorial newcomer John Stalberg a camera and said, “As long as it is on budget, it doesn’t matter how bad it is.”
What Stalberg has unleashed upon the screen is so bad, so dreary, and so…unnecessary. The question I kept asking during the entirety of the runtime for this flick is, “Why was this ever released theatrically?” We live in a world with 500 cable channels and a booming direct-to-DVD market. At any time of the day you can flip through the channels on your TV and be sure to land on some dreary, unfunny “National Lampoon’s Presents” production; and lest we forget, the somewhat successful American Pie series features a full four direct-to-DVD titles that kept the title semi-relevant and helped pay Eugene Levy’s bills for a decade. There are options out there for hacks that want to make below-mediocre grade comedies with breasts prominently featured.
But no, Anchor Bay Films has given us this treat to view as God intended, sitting in the dark surrounded by mouth-breathers who laugh every time someone acts stoned in a movie, which is often considering this is a pot comedy. A script, which Stalberg is partly to blame for, was passed around the office and given the thumbs up, I’m guessing partly because it appears to have cost a total of $20 to film this flick with a C grade cast and young actors just happy to get a part that included lines.
By the end of the film the thing that really had me questioning whether it is worth it to strive for anything in this life were the casting of the great Mr. Chiklis as Principal Gordon and Adrien Brody as drug dealer Psycho Ed. Chiklis is only four years removed from an award-winning performance anchoring the fantastic FX cop drama The Shield, yet here we find him compelled to showcase a horrible Dean Wormer of Animal House fame impression, while continually rubbing his crotch when his secretary enters the room. Brody? Don’t get me started on Brody. The man won an Oscar only ten years ago for The Pianist, and since then has given the world some truly masterful portrayals on the screen. What happened? Now he’s reduced to selling electric razors and starring in junk like this?
What does this movie tell the young people currently attempting to complete film school in the hopes they will someday make it? What does it show to the kid who is attempting to showcase true human emotions in their work? I realize this isn’t the first terrible movie to ever be released, but are the film studios so cynical that they imagine we will accept any piece of crap presented before us? If ever there was a film to avoid, this is it, if for no other reason than to pretend this never happened.