A largely unsucessful attempt for Nick Cannon (who stars and gets both exec producer and story credit) to create a vehicle for himself, "Underclassman" (another Miramax film that had been gathering much dust on the shelf before it was finally released last year) is a low-budget action comedy that takes parts and pieces of other pictures and slaps them together into a pretty predictable, underwhelming whole. Cannon stars as Tracey Stokes, an egotistical young LAPD cop who's assigned to go undercover at an upper-class high school to find who's behind a murder.
As with director Marcos Siega's other 2005 picture, "Pretty Persuasion", the characters make this a difficult watch: they're either completely one-dimensional or, in the case of Cannon's character, irritating. While I've thought Cannon was funny in other roles, he's annoying here as a smug undercover cop who - unknown to him - is terrible at what he does.
There's also the expected romance - in this case, it's with the school's Spanish teacher (Rosalyn Sanchez). Anyways, the end result is largely easy to predict from early on, and supporting performances from Shawn Ashmore ("X2") as the school jock, Kelly Hu ("Scorpion King"), Cheech Martin (who looks like he'd rather be someplace else) and others definitely don't add much to the proceedings, as the supporting characters barely get much of a chance to make an impression.
Worst of all, the film becomes plain dull (there's a lot of padding here, even though the movie's only 95-minutes) before the halfway mark - it took me a couple of tries to get through the whole movie. Obviously working with a minor budget, the filmmakers aren't able to do anything inspired with the action scenes, and the mixture of cliched plot and thin characters (not to mention some remarkably unfunny dialogue in a movie that thinks it's absolutely hilarious) results in a 95-minute picture that feels about twice that long.
VIDEO: "Underclassman" is presented by Miramax in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation quality is perfectly fine, as sharpness and detail remained consistently solid throughout the show, whether in bright outdoor scenes or dimly-lit ones.
However, the effort is tripped up by a few instances of visible edge enhancement and some trace artifacts. On a positive note, print flaws weren't spotted, nor was any shimmering. Colors remained bright and well-saturated, with no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation remained a fairly generic action soundtrack, occasionally employing the surrounds to deliver a few sound effects and some ambience, but mostly keeping the sound front-heavy. Audio quality was fine, with clear dialogue and no distortion or other concerns.
EXTRAS: Commentary with director Marcos Siega and writers David Wagner and Brent Goldberg. We also get a "making of", cast auditions and deleted scenes w/optional commentary.
Final Thoughts: I didn't like most of the characters, I became increasingly uninvolved with the story and both the action and comedy were not enjoyable. The movie has brief moments, but too much of it completely didn't work. The DVD edition provides fine audio/video quality and extras. Still, not recommended.
The Film D