Cheats (2002) / Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG-13 on appeal for thematic elements, some language and crude sexual references
Running Time: 86 min.
Cast: Trevor Fehrman, Elden Henson, Martin Starr, Matthew Lawrence, Mary Tyler Moore
Director: Andrew Gurland
Screenplay: Andrew Gurland
Review published February 18, 2003
Having seen Old School not too long ago, about a bunch of thirty-somethings who cheat their way into being able to keep their party house in a college town, there was a feeling of been-there, seen-that with Cheats. This one features high school kids as the underachievers, doing everything possible to keep from studying, devising every system that they can in order to buck the system and get through high school. Both films build themselves around a feeble plot with which to spring into some crude jokes and juvenile humor, and consequently both are only sporadically amusing on a scene-by-scene basis and far from good on the whole. I suppose one should not be surprised at the formula for humor since writer-director Gurland got his start with the short documentary Frat House collaborating with Todd Philips, the writer-director of, you guessed it, Old School.
Credit Gurland for showing some skill as a director, because without his energetic style and ability to get some decent performances by the likeable young cast, this would have been a dreadfully boring experience. It's admittedly a derivative style from many other teen comedies in the past, but if you're going to cheat, you might as well rip off the best of them. Slick as it may be, where the film is deficient completely lies with the script, with a plot that is as slight as they come, stretching about ten minutes of material with eighty minutes of complete filler. There are a couple of chuckles here and there, but perhaps the most amusing thing is the irony that these boys spend more time developing ways to cheat on each test than it would have taken to just study.
What do you usually do when you are bored? Stare at the wall? Clean out your navel? Read my site? Well, if you've gotten this far in my review you must be almost comatose from boredom, which is about the right frame of mind you'd need to be in to properly be entertained by a comedy as anemic as Cheats. Like the young men the story revolves around, Gurland's film tries to squeak by through minimal effort and boyish charm, but the world of entertainment, the more you steal others styles and ideas, the less likely you are in getting a passing grade.
©2002 Vince Leo