School Dance (2014) / Comedy-Musical
MPAA Rated: R for strong crude and sexual content throughout, pervasive language, and some drug use - all involving teens
Running Time: 87 min.
Cast: Bobb'e J. Thompson, Kristinia DeBarge, Wilmer Valderrama, Dashawn Blanks, Langston Higgins, Julian Goins, Mike Epps, Luenell, Kevin Hart, George Lopez, Patrick Warburton, Katt Williams, Melissa Molinaro, Jim Breuer, Jessica Kirson, Efren Ramirez, Affion Crockett, Amber Rose
Director: Nick Cannon
Screenplay: Nick Cannon, Nile Evans
Review published July 4, 2014
Nick Cannon (School Gyrls, A Very School Gyrls Holla-Day) directs, co-scripts, and produces this hyperactive turd called School Dance, which will easily go down on my list of one of the worst films of 2014. This is a movie that has virtually no story, chock-full of un-funny, one-note characters shoehorned in by Cannon just to get more names attached to the flick, and lots and lots of music video-style, quick-cut editing to try to up the appearance of energy and momentum that the script doesn't provide.
Bobb'e J. Thompson (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Role Models) stars as Jason, a dweeb-y high school virgin who spends a good deal of his time trying to woo school beauty Anastacia (DeBarge, Christmas in Compton). When he sees that Ana loves guys who bust some serious moves on the school grounds with their elaborate dance routines, Jason decides he is going to join a crew in order to compete in the school's 'battle of the bands'-ish annual 'lock-in' competition known as "Unity in the Community". The prize for winning the competition is $2,000, which just so happens to be the exact amount owed a gang of Latino thugs from one of the dancers in the crew Jason wants to join.
School Dance is a congested, visually busy bore-fest that routinely features the same scatological, sexual and racial humor over and over, without any real way to hook these jokes and many of the side characters into the overall story about the school dance (which isn't really a dance, but that's another issue). Women in the film are all meant to elicit expressions from the men as they wear skin-tight outfits that show off their cleavage and onion-booties, as every cheesecake shot is punctuated by a reaction shot of one of the male characters looking at them in lust.
Perhaps the only thing that is above abysmal is that Cannon does secure a professional hip-hop soundtrack (perhaps too professional to believe these high schoolers can regularly churn out pop-chart worthy ditties on the spot), and his prowess when it comes to mixing the music and dance works well in that music video sort of way. Unfortunately, the worst of them is the one Nick Cannon does himself over the end credits, wearing a fat suit and trying to rap comically (didn't we already have Arsenio Hall do the same thing as Chunky A in the early 1990s?), it's bound to be the 'stinger' that actually manages to drive audiences out of the theater rather than keeping them in for one more scene.
Cannon pulls a lot of strings in order to get some star names into his movie, with Kevin Hart (Think Like a Man Too), who seemingly appears in a movie every three weeks, donning the Eazy-E Jheri curl wig, Raiders cap and Loc'ed-out shades and grinning like Chris Rock in CB4. Bobb'e J. Thompson is fine but wasted in a do-little role, Kristinia DeBarge playing an oxymoronical virgin-sexpot is mostly used for eye candy, and Wilmer Valderrama (The Condor), George Lopez (Rio 2), Mike Epps (Resident Evil: Extinction), Katt Williams (Scary Movie 5) and Jim Breuer (Titan AE) remind you of how funny they used to be when you were watching TV shows and films in the 1990s, which is where Cannon's head still seems to be at in the inspiration department.
Patrick Warburton (Mr. Peabody & Sherman) has the weirdest role of all, playing an imaginary mentor to Jason, ostensibly modeled after the Marlboro Man, but the comedy this involves never bears fruit, merely one more crazy oddball character tossed in on the hopes that rubbing all of these various sticks together will make the comedy catch fire. Even an Airplane! homage to the jive-talking Barbara Billingsley character, Tacey Adams (Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return) as teacher Mrs. Billingsly, yields no laughs as the older white woman who speaks street vernacular.
Just because you toss in lots of visual eye candy like crazy graphical elements, slow-motion to freezes, doesn't mean you're making a good movie. Perhaps in the world of a 4-minute video, this kind of stuff might fly, but when you're asking for 90 minutes of a person's life to invest in your feature film, we deserve a lot more than barely-intelligible ethnic stereotypes and exploitative, disturbingly lingering shots of mainly underage female characters. Cannon should stick to what he's good at, namely, being Mariah Carey's husband, and leave the filmmaking to people who actually know how to write and direct, because he really sucks at it.
©2014 Vince Leo