Starring: Nick Cannon, Roselyn Sanchez, Shawn Ashmore, Cheech Martin, Kelly Hu
Director: Marcos Seiga
“Underclassman” is a really bad movie. It’s a montage of overused clichés, depressingly moronic humor, unabashed sexism, and societal ignorance. There is not one moment in this film that wasn’t dreamed up during a marketing meeting. It’s a “Beverly Hills Cop” rip-off that is just plain dumb. So why the hell is it so enjoyable, dammit? Well, it seems low expectations and a fresh, young, talented star go a long way.
Nick Cannon (“Drumline”) plays Tracy Stokes, a baby-faced detective who means well but lacks maturity. After accidentally blowing up the entire city of Los Angeles making a bust in the beginning of the movie, the powers that be decide, in their infinite wisdom, that a good assignment for this loose cannon is to go undercover at a local prep school. His assignment is to investigate the murder of a reporter for the school newspaper, but quickly Tracy finds himself involved in a crime ring involving drugs and stolen cars.
It is the scenes at the prep school where “Underclassman” works best. Cannon’s character, a kid from the streets of Philadelphia, interacts with the spoiled elite in some pretty humorous moments. In one hilarious scene, Tracy tries to learn rugby to get in good with some of the students. Needless to say, it doesn’t go too well for him.
The cast is a fairly talented, multi-ethnic assortment of actors that help the movie along as well. Roselyn Sanchez, who plays Tracy’s Spanish teacher, provides some tender moments even if she is lowered to a damsel-in-distress role in the end. Shawn Ashmore (“X2”) also turns in another solid performance.
But for everything done right in “Underclassman,” there is a huge wrong. For example, whose bright idea was it to have Cheech Marin play it straight? As Tracy’s superior, he spends most of the film reduced to the angry police Captain cliché, wasting a strong comedic performer. It’s as if the suits at Miramax were afraid Marin would outshine Cannon, a potentially moneymaking new star for the studio.
Nick Cannon is a funny guy. Not only that, he’s got talent and charisma. He deserves to be in a film that doesn’t try its best to make him look bad. If the worst thing that comes from this film is that Nick Cannon gets another film than that wouldn’t be so bad. And if years from now, after a successful career, Cannon looks back and wonders why he ever made that terrible movie “Underclassman,” well that that wouldn’t be so terrible either.
The single-disc release of the teen comedy "Underclassman" includes a decent supply of DVD features including a full-length commentary with director Marcos Siega, deleted scenes (with optional commentary), cast auditions, and a making-of documentary. Not a bad selection considering how bad this film did at the box office.