Making the Grades
Following in a long line of "seen it before" movies, (remember Drew Barrymore's Never Been Kissed), is Underclassman, a story about Tracy Stokes (Nick Cannon). He's a 23-year-old LAPD bike cop who is tired of peddling down the streets of Los Angeles in the hopes of making "the" bust that will secure him a "real" police job. In the past, his young looks and immature nature have held him back from securing a promotion, but fate is about to extend a new opportunity.
When a murder takes place at an elite private high school, Stokes is assigned to go undercover and dig up some inside information. Initially his, "I'll do anything to get off the bike beat" attitude is dimmed by the idea of having to go back to school--he never did complete his high school diploma (although he did manage to pass the GED).
Pulling into the parking spot of Rob Donovan (Shawn Ashmore), the institution's most popular student and the number one murder suspect, Stokes begins his second high school career with a rocky start. But this time he has a plan: He'll depend on his self-confident charisma to woo a passing grade from his attractive Spanish teacher, become the hero of the streetball team (perhaps an odd sports choice for what appears to be an all-white, rich kids school), and fit time in for his job--which means getting extra-chummy with Donovan.
Meanwhile, back at the precinct, Captain Delgado (Cheech Marin) still questions the novice officer's ability to come through on the job. He only continues to give Stokes a chance because of his fondness for the boy's late father--a cop who also "had more passion than procedure." To alleviate his concern about the junior officer's lack of experience, he assigns detectives Brooks (Kelly Hu) and Gallecki (Ian Gomez) to provide backup. Yet, these seasoned officers appear even more dimwitted than their rookie charge--especially after Gallecki messes up a major stakeout while doing some bathroom business in the bushes.
Underclassman is certain to attract the disdain of artistic critics on many levels. Performances are weak, the writing is often illogical, the concept is a reworked formula, and the film reeks of a new era of reverse prejudice--there isn't a white person on screen who isn't stupid or evil.
On a family level, this teen-targeting movie has only one positive point meriting consideration: Captain Delgado's seemingly infinite (and rather unbelievable) patience with the whiny officer. Unfortunately, in all other regards, our "hero" relies on his caustic wit and schmoozing skills to stumble upon the leads needed to progress this lackluster comedy to a happy ending. Parents might be even less pleased with violence involving guns, some profanities (including a single use of a sexual expletive), and bathroom humor that strains to get a sour laugh from the audience.
In keeping with this film's contrived humor and predictable circumstance, this Underclassman is barely deserving of a below-average grade.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Underclassman.
A scene in this movie depicts a house party with dozens of teens holding plain colored plastic cups. What do you think they are drinking? Do you think the creators of this teen movie carefully considered this decision? How would clear glasses have created a different conclusion?
Both Nick Cannon and Shawn Ashmore are in their mid-twenties, yet they are playing high school students. Why do older people portray most teenagers in movies? Do you think they look like 17-year-olds?
The character of Tracy Stokes is a high school dropout, who later passed his GED. If you are making career decisions, check this page for some incentives to continue your education: http://www.ericdigests.org/2003-3/value.htm. And if you are yearning to be an LAPD officer, here’s the official recruitment page: http://www.joinlapd.com.