May 3, 2007

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Kickin’ It Old Skool (PG-13)
Jamie Kennedy makes us all feel deeply, deeply sorry for him with Kickin’ It Old Skool, an alleged comedy which is forget-to-wear-pants-to-your-job-interview level of embarrassing.

Kennedy, who is 37, looks about 45 even through he has the voice of a 12-year-old in this story of a boy who never grew up but, while in a coma, grew old. Justin (Kennedy) and his friend form what they are certain is a very kickass dance team, the Funky Fresh Boyz, but before they are able to hit the middle-school big time, Justin dances himself into a coma with one particularly dangerous, head-damaging move.

Two decades later, Justin’s parents decide — or rather their lack of money decides for them — to pull the plug on his life support. Thankfully, at just the right moment, a musical flashback returns Justin to consciousness and the atrophied-limb man-boy returns to the home of his mom (Debra Jo Rupp) and dad (Christopher McDonald). When he finds out how deep in the financial hole his years of coma have put his parents, he decides to reassemble the “Boyz” and attempt to win a dance contest held at the mall. The now-tubby Hector (Aris Alvarado), the hen-pecked Darnell (Miguel A. Nuñez Jr.) and the respectability-seeking Aki (Bobby Lee) aren’t so sure about this plan but they eventually go along with it because they pity their poor missing-20-years-of-his-life friend and because if they didn’t this would be a really short movie (oh, if only).

And — because what would a movie like this be without a creepy love story? — Justin also hopes that winning the dance contest might get him the admiration of Jenn (Maria Menounos), his former flame, who is now engaged to Kip (Michael Rosenbaum), his former nemesis.

Ouch, that Michael Rosenbaum part really stings. I had a nice little WB crush on him from the early days of Smallville, where a deliciously bald Rosenbaum plays a suave, slightly fey Lex Luthor. Granted, I haven’t watched that show in several years, since it became more about stupid Lana than about Clark and Lex, but I liked to keep that picture of Rosenbaum as a nice, brainy, campy teen-TV stud. Here, however, he plays a mental defective — a character who is part Carson Daly and part spazzy, harness-wearing kid from the old Mad TV sketches. It’s awful to watch. What, couldn’t you have managed your Smallville money better, Michael Rosenbaum? Do you really want to become the poor man’s Ryan Reynolds, who is already the poor man’s Dane Cook? And, anyway, that position is more or less taken by the Dax Shepard-types. So, really Michael Rosenbaum, do you want to be a poor man’s Dax Shepard? Do you even know who that is?

Rosenbaum is sinking to the muck of a career built on bit parts in direct-to-video comedies and comic book convention appearances but Kennedy is already sunk. He is fifth in line to host the next copy of Punk’d and will have to work overtime to appear in the next Pauly Shore project. Of a hundred meant-to-be-funny lines in Kickin’ It, maybe one elicits a giggle. The movie snoozes through the dance contest scenes and fails to make Kennedy more than just a prop on which it can hang Karate Kid headbands and parachute pants.

Remember-the-eighties shtick was funny a year ago when smirky B-list comedians traded in it on I Love the 80s. It is nostalgic and energizing when you hear “Mr. Roboto” on the flashback lunch show. It is even groanily entertaining when you see retro fashions on the hangers of the juniors section, leaving a new generation to be tortured by shapeless sweaters and stirrup pants. But here it is sticky and moldy and unwelcome — like a Fruit Roll-up stuck to the bottom of smelly old Keds. F

Rated PG-13 for crude sexual content and language. Directed by Harvey Glazer and written by Trace Slobotkin, Josh Siegal and Dylan Morgan, Kickin’ It Old Skool is an hour and 47 minutes long and is distributed in wide release by Yari Film Group