There is no reason to see Underclassmen, because chances are, you've seen it already. Nothing about it is original, aside from the fact that it stars Nick Cannon (Shall We Dance, Garfield). Cannon, who showed that he had charisma in Drumline, is at the stage where he needs to decide where he wants to take his career. If Underclassman is any indication, he will try to pander to stupidity by recycling familiar stories that were funny two decades ago. This movie is just lazy. At no point in Underclassman does the viewer wonder what may happen. Tre Stokes (Eddie Murphy, uh, Martin Lawrence, wait, Chris Tucker, no, Cannon) is the fast-talking, semi-hip, well-meaning but troublesome black cop.
Well, street cop. He longs to be a good detective, but Capt. Victor Delgado (Cheech Marin, Christmas with the Kranks, Good Boy!) believes rightly that Stokes is too rash and impulsive. Marin is a competent actor, and his talents are completely wasted here. The same goes for Kelly Hu (X2: X-Men United, Cradle 2 the Grave) and Ian Gomez (The Last Shot, Connie and Carla), but that's fine, since people will basically forget about this movie after they see it. Anyway, Delgado needs to send somebody undercover at a prestigious private school to solve a murder. Stokes is the only copy who fits the profile, so with great reluctance, Delgado sends him in.
Once there, Stokes tries to get close to Rob Donovan (Shawn Ashmore, X2: X-Men United, X-Men), the basketball star who is one of the prime suspects. He also makes goo-goo eyes at hot teacher Karen Lopez (Rosalyn Sanchez, State Property 2, Chasing Papi), who, scarily, flirts back. Through his bumbling, Stokes discovers that something bigger is happening at the school. Cars are going missing, and somebody is smuggling drugs. Cannon helped come up with the story, which may explain some things. Underclassman, with screenplay by Brent Goldberg and David Wagner (The Girl Next Door, My Baby's Daddy) feels like a movie a kid wrote. They think it's funny and original but don't realize they are copping from tons of other films.
Thankfully, Underclassman is short, and Marcos Siega, who has a background in commercials, move things quickly. Oddly enough, Siega also directed Pretty Persuasion, which was much better (but still not great). How can one person make a reasonably complex film about high school, then follow it up with one with people that exist only in movies? Underclassman moves quickly enough for audiences to realize that it is not funny, that the random basketball game, big house party, and the exploding cars are tedious cliches. In the end, Stokes will grow up, get the girl, and solve the case. No big surprise. But it's all okay, you'll probably forget everything about this film after a few days.
|Haro Rates It: Pretty Bad.|
|1 hour, 35 minutes, Rated PG-13 for violence, sexual references, drug material, and some teen drinking.|
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