by Kevin Carr
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|| MOVIE: *1/2 (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: **1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Nick Cannon as TRE STOKES
Roselyn Sanchez as KAREN LOPEZ
Shawn Ashmore as ROB DONOVAN
Angelo Spizzirri as DAVID BOSCOE
Hugh Bonneville as HEADMASTER FELIX POWERS
Cheech Marin as CAPTAIN VICTOR DELGADO
Kelly Hu as LISA BROOKS
Ian Gomez as DETECTIVE GALLECKI
Directed by: Marcos Siega
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Let me dispel a rumor that is going around Hollywood. Nick Cannon is not that great.
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Oh, I’ve seen him in some films that are pretty decent. His 2003 “Can’t Buy Me Love” remake, “Love Don’t Cost a Thing,” wasn’t bad. He was pretty good there bridging the gap between nerd and player. However, he’s not the next Eddie Murphy. Heck, he’s not even the next Charlie Murphy.
It seems that the filmmakers behind “Underclassman” think that Nick Cannon is the second coming of comedy genius. The sad fact is that he ain’t. Under the hand of a director who knows how to reign in an actor, Cannon can give a good performance. But the last thing you want to do is to leave him to his own devices to ad-lib some really, really bad comedy.
“Underclassman” had a tumultuous path to the theatres. It was originally set to be released in 2004, but it was caught in the Disney/Miramax quagmire and wasn’t released until late 2005. Even then, it’s release date jumped around quite a bit, going as far to bailing from an early August release because it wouldn’t hold up against “The Dukes of Hazzard.”
That should be a sign for you... they didn’t have confidence in it against “The Dukes.” Aye caramba!
This lack of confidence is not unwarranted. “Underclassman” is ill-conceived, ill-cast and ill-equipped. I’ve already railed on Nick Cannon’s lack of comedic legs. Let’s move on to the greatest assets to the film – two beautiful co-stars, Kelly Hu and Roselyn Sanchez. Both women are wasted in their performances. On one hand, Sanchez is placed as a weak love interest while Hu is put in as Cannon’s superior.
Hu is portrayed as a home-body who would rather sit at home alone with a pint of ice cream than go out on a date. I could believe that about his other co-star Ian Gomez, but not Kelly Hu. Plus, she is given the unenviable position of playing second fiddle to Gomez, reacting off of bad bathroom humor rather than being involved in the story.
“Underclassman” takes a page from the “21 Jump Street” formula. Cannon plays a young bike cop who is trying to work his way up the precinct ladder. He’s given an assignment to go undercover at a private school to track down a ring of car thieves.
Of course, there are the obligatory black jokes, which don’t come out well from Cannon considering he’s about as ghetto as I am. Cannon’s character also brings the cast together through a streetball game, which is shoehorned into the plot with very little reason.
The best part of the DVD are the special features, which includes a commentary by the director and co-writers. In many ways, this commentary reminds me of the one I heard on the “Fat Albert” disc. They are so self-congratulatory for no good reason. They gush over Cannon as a comedic star when he’s so obviously over his head. It’s clear from this commentary why such a film was made and the filmmakers we so off-base for what works on the screen.
Other special features include deleted scenes with optional commentary, a making-of featurette and cast auditions. One of the most disturbing things in the featurette is when Cannon brags about how he got to kiss Roselyn Sanchez. I know that Cannon is about seven years Sanchez’s junior, but it still sounds really, really creepy.
Specifications: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Sound. Widescreen (2.35:1) – Enhanced for 16x9 televisions. French language track. Spanish subtitles. English subtitles for the hearing impaired.