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Underclassman
2005 - PG-13 - 95 Mins.
Director: Marcos Siega
Producer: Nick Cannon, Bob Weinstein
Written By: David Wagner, Brent Goldberg
Starring: Nick Cannon, Roselyn Sanchez, Shawn Ashmore, Kelly Hu, Cheech Marin
Review by: Joe Rickey
Official Site: www.miramax.com/underclassman/
   

What in the name am I doing next to this guy?
In 'Underclassman' Nick Cannon ('Drumline') plays a cop who gets the duty of going undercover at an elite private school (is there any other kind?). It is his job to crack a case involving stolen cars and a drug with the ever so subtle moniker of "Bliss." In order to do so he has to get close to a popular student (Shawn Ashmore) who it's believed has something to do with the thefts. Along the way to solving the case he develops a crush on his interim Spanish teacher (Roselyn Sanchez) and helps the school's street ball team win a tournament. Cheech Marin (as the police captain) and Kelly Hu (as a fellow officer) costar in a film directed by Marcos Siega ('Pretty Persuasion').

'Underclassman' doesn't even try to do anything we haven't seen multiple times before. This in itself isn't the death knell for the film. After all, how many films could actually be considered original in this day and age? The problem here though is that the film doesn't even do cliche well enough to be anything notable. Where to begin? The film's screenplay, with its tired jokes regarding "Swallowing Nemo" and other such references seem tired and far past their prime considering how long ago the aforementioned Pixar film was released. The derivative nature in which the plot progresses does anything but help matters as it proceeds exactly as you would expect it. Want surprises? Move along. Nothing to see here.

The film also fails because of Nick Cannon. The actor is a grating screen presence, to say the least. He is liable to get on your nerves within ten minutes of being on screen. A high-pitched whine coupled with a smug look that makes one believe that Mr. Cannon thinks he's all that and more make for a lead that it is difficult to muster any sort of shred of care for because of how obnoxious he comes across. The rest of the cast has nothing to do really except stand around and let Cannon be the center of attention. It's quite sad how disappointing that is to say because the supporting cast could probably act circles around the lead.

Director Siega brings a nondescript look to the production, no doubt hampered by production values that aren't any better than those granted to an episode of any of the myriad of crime shows on the air these days. The sense of irony and wit he brought to the dark comedy 'Pretty Persuasion' is nowhere in sight here. The action sequences are edited with a chainsaw so that they devolve into a series of gunshots, nothing more substantial.

All in all, 'Underclassman' plays like a reheated combination of 'The Skulls' and any number of buddy cop comedies, most notably 'Beverly Hills Cop.'
 
Movie Guru Rating
A train wreck.  So bad some may find it unintentionally entertaining.
  1 out of 5 stars

 
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