Hippo Manchester
September 8, 2005


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Underclassman (PG-13)
by Amy Diaz

A bike cop gets a shot at being a detective by using his baby-face to go undercover at a posh prep school in Underclassman.

Glaaaaah ó itís a sound thatís part gag, part groan, part heavy sigh and usually comes in conjunction with an eye roll and a flopping back of the head. Itís the sound you make when you find out that dinner will consist of leftover baked chicken and peas from a can. Itís the sound you make when you go to the laundry room and realize that every single piece of cloth in your house is piled up and needs washing. Itís the sound you make when you find out that the staff meeting will include both a progress report and a brainstorming session. Itís a sound that is both plea for relief and an acceptance of prolonged unpleasantness. It is, in a word, my feelings towards this movie.

Glaaaaah ó dear god, another cop comedy. Itís as though Jimmy Fallonís Taxi never happened. As though we, as a society, have learned nothing.

Nick Cannon, the movieís star, is, in terms of things grown-up people may have seen, perhaps best known for his role in Drumline. He is not, in terms of 24-year-old actors who got their start on Nickelodeon, bad. He has potential for, well, who knows what really as his chief characteristic seems to be a blank-slate ability to mold to fit his roles. Such malleability, however, is not eternal. Continuing down the road of lame, junk-status comedies is the sure way to be typecast for failure. Or, as your mom might say, if you keep making those faces, one day they might freeze that way.

Cannon is Tre Stokes, a bike cop who itches to do more. Always yipping at the ankles of his captain (Cheech Marin), Stokes manages to talk his way into an undercover assignment at a private high school in Los Angeles. There was an unsolved murder at the school and, as Tre quickly discovers, a rash of car thefts.

But itís not all about the big bust for Tre, he also feels a sudden rush of accomplishment at the thought of finally graduating high school for real (seems he only ever made it to GED). And then, of course, thereís that other big bust belonging to Miss Lopez (Roselyn Sanchez), the Spanish teacher who helps him find his inner scholar.

After the requisite black-kid-at-white-school jokes, the underage-girls jokes, the difference-between-rich-and-poor jokes, the brash-cop-and-stern-captain jokes, then we do the requisite 20 minutes of car chases and improbable explosions. Watch the trailer and there wonít be a minute of the movie you couldnít predict accurately without ever seeing the film. No surprises, no innovation, nothing clever or smart about the way this movie uses its well-worn plot.

The filmís best feature? It only runs 95 minutes. And at 96 minutes, the glaaaaah definitely becomes an aaargh.