Assassination of a High School President (2008) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
29Jan/110

Assassination of a High School President (2008)

Danny no longer writes for Can't Stop the Movies, and can be reached at his fantastic site Pre-Code.com

Danny DISLIKEHe's a hardboiled kind of kid. His ex-girlfriend, the one he was crazy about, slipped into a world of drugs and turns up dead. He has a few clues, but only knows that he must figure out how this happens, no matter by what means. The twist is that he's still in high school: classes, bullies, nerds, it's all there. He must navigate both these treacherous waters and the dangerous underworld that operates underneath it to find the truth about what really happened to his love.

That's the plot to Brick from 2005. That's a good movie. Today's movie... not so much.

Made three years later with the same high concept (film noir in high school!), Assassination of a High School President is a farcical take on the detective story, with a singular reporter for the school paper being the only person dorky enough to try and connect the dots between a few random incidents.

The kid's name is Funke, though all the kids pronounce it as 'Funky' which elicits tons of connotations for anyone remotely familiar with the Funky Winkerbean comic strip. I think 'Funky' is supposed to be a derogatory nickname, at least from the way the other kids say it, but it just doesn't work as an insult. Funky Fuzz, maybe. Chunky Funky if he was fat. Go Funk Yourself?

I dunno. This is why I'm no longer in high school.

Seriously, I have a diploma and everything.

Funke believes he's stumbled on a grand conspiracy about the robbery of some SATs from the principal's office, and he thinks that may have something to do with a faked injury the prestigious private high school's president took at around the same time as the robbery. Funky gets the article, and the president is brought down. But did the president actually do it, or are there larger forces at work here?

If you can guess the answers to those questions, dear reader, than you can guess where the plot of this film is going thirty minutes before it even vaguely hints at going there.

But, surprisingly, predictability is only one of the wide array of problems this film has from the start. Let's start with the acting and work our way down, shall we?

The big name you may or may not recognize is Bruce Willis. Willis is in full ham mode here, playing a one legged Desert Storm veteran who is ultra patriotic to a fault. It's an odd character, inserted for comic relief but also to generate plot momentum. It seems like Willis ran amok during his duties, making damn sure he acted enough to earn his paycheck.

The only highlight in the film are two of the actors, Reece Thompson as Funke and Melonie Diaz as Clara. Thompson has almost enough charm to carry the over-caffeinated film, which is stunning considering how initially unlikeable his character is early on; the only reason I'd say he didn't pull it off is because the plot is so stupid, it continually spits in his character's intelligence. Diaz has a thankless role as the crusading newspaper editor who is unfortunately too dumbly eager for the next big scoop, but at least she builds some sort of human repertoire with Funke, far more than anyone else manages.

The last name I'll bring up is Mischa Barton. Former star of "The O.C." (or so I'm told), her performance as the titular president's ex-girlfriend/femme fatale is about as interesting as your average two by four. Her character is meant to be a cipher, but is so obvious from page one that her presence becomes a long annoying distraction, and Barton's performance does nothing to help it.

Speaking of, let's look into the world these characters inhabit. Where Brick took its world and played it with a completely straight face, Assassination of a High School President has an identity crisis bordering on schizophrenia.

Except when it comes to showing off some of that hot schoolgirl leg, that is.

Is the movie a straight detective story? A tender coming-of-age tale? A farce? It modulates between the three without grace or wit. The world these characters inhabit, in what is supposed to be an elite religious school that is rife with seedy dealings, it also involves cheerleaders humping the floor, teachers showering with students, and beer at the homecoming dance. It's a talking animal away from being a Saturday morning cartoon if it weren't for the tits.

The moral beneath the confused story seems to indicate that all political actions are a farce, and that we can only hope to uncover the reality through persistence. But that's giving the film a loftier aspiration that it seems to deserve, since it wants to be so many things without saying much about them at all.

In the end, the film wants to be Chinatown meets Sixteen Candles meets Cruel Intentions, but instead is kind of a Two Jakes meets Down to You meets Cruel Intentions 3. If none of those latter three films sound familiar to you, there's good reasons for that.

...

P.S. The title, if it were to be accurate, should actually be Character Assassination of a High School President, but I guess putting that on the poster would have taken more balls than the filmmakers actually had.

Posted by Danny

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