Sunday, January 10, 2010

Higher Education

(John Sheppard, 1987)
This 80s youth comedy reminds one how John Hughes changed the game - the echoes feel almost inevitable. As with Hughes, you've got a (genuinely talented) ensemble of slightly off-kilter 'types'; you've got 80s rock piled to the ceiling; and you've got broad comedy veering into romantic melodrama in the third act. The latter was Hughes' most enduring influence - Juno? Adventureland? same shit - and, to my mind, his most pernicious. The comedy here may be a little contrived and a little sporadic, but while Sheppard's weak on the slapstick his verbal humour is often funny. However it's also transparently shallow - so what good is the angst routine? Skewed as it is toward the male point of view, the tonal shift also means that Isabelle Mejias - the funniest and most agile performer here - gets shunted into the background when she should be front and centre. Maury Chaykin's improbably witty Guido steps into the breach, which helps a bit; but while lead Kevin Hicks has a few moments, he's either miscast or poorly used - too blank, too reactive. I could have also used just a bit more Gladys and Droid, who manage their supporting-weirdo duties with honors - I love it when Gladys's pentagram stops working.

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