Lower Learning
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Lower Learning

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Many people turn up their noses at so-called low brow humor. There is a distant loudly proclaimed in public over the increasing trend for puerile flicks that have taken over the ‘R’ rated comedy niche. There was a time when a humorous movie could be made with this MPAA rating and come off as smart; just not suitable for the kids. Currently, the films in this category are barely suitable for even the adults. When the flick ‘Lower Learning’ came around, I wanted to like it. It has a cast that was reasonably adept at comedy, and there was a glimmer of hope. I have somewhat eclectic and usually attempt to find some positive points with even the most dismal movie. Here it is; this film has a few funny moments, but overall it falls far short of reaching any realistic goal in the genre. What has passed off to the audience as humor here brings low brow to a new low? It is not even up to the ‘classic’ gross-out films like ‘American Pie’ and lacks the wild energy of ‘Animal House.’ What remains is a flick that may have some appeal to overworked teachers, but few in the general population will be pulled into the plot. This is just one in a growing list of films that starts out with a good cast and crew, a fairly workable plot and crashes before it can get off the ground. It does try a premise that is tried and true; school. In this case one of the worse schools in the district, state, and perhaps nation. This would usually get the younger viewers, despite the rating, but here the kids and grown-ups are equally flawed.

It did manage to get a limited theatrical release earlier this year and is currently available on DVD through the Starz division, Anchor Bay. Please do not blame the distributors for this flick. Anchor Bay has some of the best little independent gems around available on DVD. Even the best battery in baseball strikes out once and awhile so cut them some slack here. Some movies can be fun as a beer and pizza movie night flick. In this particular case, it would take a considerable volume of that beverage to allow you to be happy with this movie. Since over drinking is not something to consider it might be best to watch this one in the spirit of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and make up your jokes as you go along.

Shahin Chandrasoma and Mark Lafferty wrote the script. This is an initial project for Charisma. Lafferty also directs and has one short film before this. Much of the reason for the missteps made in this movie can be largely attributed to them just getting started. Comedy is one of the more difficult genres to master. With a horror flick, all you need is a few shocking moments, and you have a sellable flick. With drama, a few tears and emotional scenes can at least get you listed in this category. For comedies, the jokes are all important. Even the best comedians will go down in flames with bad material. In this case, the humor is targeted too low to be effective. The jokes are juvenile and are not able to channel the inner eight-year-old inside the audience. The execution is marred by going too far over the edge with some of the situations. Teachers are smoking in class and making sexual advances to each other while the kids are watching a sex education video that might have been made by the folks over at Cinemax at Night. The set up was conducive for a more romantic take but doesn’t go far enough along those lines. There is a good look vice principal and a beautiful board of education investigator so it would be natural for sparks to fly. While this is included the focus was on the antics of the kids and faculty.

Lafferty also needs some time to hone his skills as a director. There is nothing for the audience to grab onto here for an emotional connection. The teachers are so disillusioned that they don’t care anymore. The economic landscape now is bleak. Traditionally during times like this people turn to a comedy to lift their spirits. With massive cutbacks and unemployment, the audience was to forget life instead of watching a group of zombie-like teachers and a bunch of students completely out of hand. There is also a theme of administrative corruption that is not handled in a way to promote the overall humor. The focus is too raunchy instead of funny. The dialogue comes across like that kid in grade school who thought cursing was funny. You may laugh a few times, but he couldn’t last as the class clown. Lafferty has potential. With the technical aspects of the film work. He has an eye for staging and lighting a scene. With more time and better material to work from he can be much better than is demonstrated here.

Just about the only thing worse than being at the Barry Goldwater Elementary would be homeschooling with the Manson family. The school is horrible. It barely works as a babysitting facility providing little to no actual education. The film opens with Tom (Jason Biggs) driving up to another dismal day at work. On the radio, there is news of misappropriations and corruption in the school board. He is the vice principal and has more than he can handle. As Tom rests his head of the steering wheel trying to muster the strength to go in a child knocks on his window to see if he is okay. We don’t even make it to two minutes into the flick before the first unnecessary fart joke. The school has the lowest test scores in the state. If something isn’t done fast, it will be eliminated. The principal, Mr. Billings (Rob Corddry) is a tyrannical administrator who is more concerned with shaking down the parents than the education of the students. Young students with blazers and white gloves run before him to open doors and make coffee for Billings. The day hasn’t begun and one teacher. Laura (Monica Potter) is already refilling her coffee cup with booze. The gym teacher, Jesse (Will Sasso) who is grossly out of shape sits at his desk stuffing his face while looking at porn. Things get so bad that the board sends out an inspector, Rebecca (Eva Longoria Parker) who was once the object of a crush by Tom. It ultimately falls on Tom and Rebecca to rally the teachers and expose the corruption of Billings.

There was a potential for a fun flick here, and you have to give credit for the cast and crew giving it a try. Biggs has proven himself in comedy and Parker has been very funny on her hit TV series ‘Desperate Housewives’. Sasso has experience on ‘MAD TV,’ and Corddry has been very funny on Comedy Central’s ‘The Daily Show.’ All the elements are here but unable to mix properly.

Posted 11/17/08            Posted   9/28/2018

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