Underclassman DVD: Review By Brian Gallagher

Nick Cannon and Rosalyn Sanchez have a nice little vibe together.
  • OVERALL
    1.5
    POOR
  • Feature
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
THE GOOD
Nick Cannon and Rosalyn Sanchez have a nice little vibe together.
THE BAD
Nick Cannon tries to be Chris Tucker way too much, bad writing, directing and the special features sucked as well. Good times.
THE FEATURE
I know hybrid cars are all the rage these days, but I don't know why they keep making these hybrid movies. Underclassman is a hybrid of Rush Hour, The Fast and the Furious and boredom, in an only slightly entertaining flick that not even Nick Cannon's once burdgeoning popularity could've saved.

Underclassman revolves around Tracy "Tre" Stokes (Cannon) an over-eager bike cop who tries to make cases on his own, hoping it will shoot him straight up the ladder to detective, a post he holds in high esteem because his late father was once an assumably legendary detective himself. We start off with Stokes on the beach, trying to make an undercover bust off a tip when he screws it all up, nabbing the bad guys but blowing all the evidence to kingdom come. Back at the office he gets a tongue-lashing from his captain (Cheech Marin) and, to put even more icing on the cake, we see his selfish ways when he showboats and refuses to pass in an inter-cop basketball game. Is this starting to sound familiar? Then an opportunity falls in Stokes' lap (familiar?) when a kid is found dead near a ritzy private school and, with Stokes' eagerness and his fitting of the profile, he's put on the case, which is of course odd because he never finished high school, opting for the G.E.D. So he gets thrown into a rich private school and told to chum up to this Rob kid (Shawn Ashmore) and dig up some goods on the case, in which, of course, there is much more than meets the eye.

Now I'll be honest here and say that this is the first movie I've seen Nick Cannon in. Yeah, I just didn't get the craze, I guess. So I'm not sure if it's just this movie, or if it's how he is in every movie, but it seems blatantly clear that either he, or the filmmakers, want to make him into the next Chris Tucker. He has the same sort of quippy little one-liners, more than half of which fail to produce anything more than an eye-roll and at times displays some of the fidgeting physical humor that, after seeing this, is obvious only Tucker can pull off. However, when he isn't in this quasi-Tucker state, Cannon is quite affable on the screen, with a pretty sharp presence and command of his character. Sadly, though, he gets virtually no help from the rest of the cast. Kelly Hu, who they somehow made far less striking than usual, keeps that trend with a bland performance as a detective and her partner, Ian Gomez is as cliche as police detectives come. The same can be said for Cheech Marin as a police captain and Shawn Ashmore as Rob along with the rest of Rob's cronies giving totally by-the-book/dreadful performances. Rosalyn Sanchez is the only supporting cast member that does any semblance of a good job. While her character as the sexy Spanish teacher has been done many a time before, she brings a unique, downplayed charisma to the role, and her interactions with Cannon's character provide for most of the movie's genuine moments.

The script from the team of Brett Wagner and David T. Goldberg is pretty bad, which gives us an interesting case study of screenwriting in and out of the major studio system. Their first flick, National Lampoon's Van Wilder (outside the studios), was a pretty decent hit, then clunking with My Baby's Daddy (inside the studios), then shining again with The Girl Next Door (outside), an amazing and vastly underrated movie, and then clunking again here (inside). It's rather astonishing how good these guys can write on their own, and fail so miserably when they're under a studio flag. Wagner and Goldberg, who concocted the original story with Cannon, use cliche after cliche in the dialogue and the story moves along tediously and predictably with the one big twist even being a rip-off itself from The Substitute. It's sad how bad this is, when I know how good these two can be.

Director Marcos Siega is the latest in the long line of music video directors to make the switch to feature films. Actually, this is his second offering, but his first major release, but yeah. He doesn't handle his talent that well, is just horrible in the car chase sequences and seems to be a little too stylish for his own good.
THE EXTRAS
First up here we get The Making of Underclassman which is your typical glad-handing featurette with everyone saying how nice it is to be working with everyone else and blah blah blah. Who flippin cares. I guess it fits for this movie, though, since everything in the movie was rather typical.

Next up are Cast Auditions which are even more worhtless. Here we just get a few minutes of different cast members auditioning, which is kind of funny because most of the parts they read from must have been cut from the flick. The best part, however, is when they ask Rosalyn Sanchez, who was born in Puerto Rico, if she speaks Spanish. Wow.

Next up are Deleted Scenes, which are usually a big waste of time. There are 16 deleted scenes here, and you can watch with the commentary from director Marcos Siega and writers Brett Wagner and David T. Goldberg. Out of these scenes there is only one that really should've been in the flick, and a few related ones that I could've seen being added. The one they really should've kept, called "I Have a Wrench," added a lot of flavor to a really bland scene that I thought ended rather awkwardly as it was. Oh well.
THE VIDEO
Sunny L.A. looks just fine in the 2.35:1 widescreen format, which apparently is enhanced for 16x9 televisions. Now I know what I'm asking for for Christmas this year...
THE AUDIO
Cannon is heard more than well enough in the Dolby Digital 5.1 format.
THE PACKAGE
The front cover is done nicely with Cannon in the foreground showing his fold-out badge that has his student I.D. on it as well, and the lovely Rosalyn Sanchez and Kelly Hu featured in the background. There is a horrible tagline on the bottom, though. The back cover isn't so good though. It has a few cookie-cutter critic quotes, although I imagine it was hard to find many glowing praises of this flick, an over-the-top synopsis, s few small pictures and the special features and specifications box. Nothing to write home about, folks.
THE FINAL WORD
Underclassman is an experimental movie. They experimented with Nick Cannon's popularity, hoping it would bring in a cash cow to the theaters ($5.6 million total gross) and it shows how great writers turn into mediocre or worse writers when thrown into a big studio scenario. While it can be a little fun to watch at times, Underclassman remains about as dull as a final exam, not to mention as tedious as one.

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