It's mind-boggling to think that this contrived piece of teen comedy/drama, which owes much to any number of predecessors (notably 1990's PUMP UP THE VOLUME), was inspired by real events. And while the students whose exploits form the story's basis are featured over the end credits, their stories and looks bear little, if any, resemblance to the antics and images of the preceding 90 minutes. Holden (Gregory Smith) yes, the student who stands up to high-school hypocrisy is named after Catcher in the Rye's iconic misfit dwells on the fringe of popularity, an attractive teenager with a bit of an edge. He, the object of his affection, Charlotte (Stephanie Sherrin), and their entire filmmaking class (which consists of many members of the minority club and a popular cheerleader) are dismayed that Principal Wellar (Julie Bowen) has responded to run-of-the-mill disciplinary problems by ruling with an iron fist. She's started suspending students for any behavior she deems inappropriate, like keeping a journal or promoting safe sex. During the "Holiday Hoopla" talent show, Holden delivers a moving recitation that extols the virtues of free speech and takes Weller to task for stifling it. Worried about his antiestablishment behavior and, more to the point, how it could affect her bid for state superintendent, she suspends him. Holden stages protests and breaks into the school PA system to spread the word about her behavior. Things at the school deteriorate further until a favorite teacher (Malik Yoba) is fired for standing up to Weller, prompting more students to take action. To the film's credit, it contains some very funny moments, especially those involving self-centered cheerleaders and the school's lone gay, Wham-obsessed student. But the important message and its embrace of lowest-common-denominator teen-movie cliches don't really jibe. Director/cowriter Josh Stolberg, a movie junkie who pays homage to pretty much everyone and everything he can squeeze in, is clearly enthusiastic about the material. But it might have been better served by a documentary or a straightforward triumph-of-the-human-spirit treatment. The cast is eclectic and talented, but their roles are two-dimensional and the is-it-or-isn't-it-satirical? tone ensures that their performances never seem properly pitched. The result is a muddled mess whose message gets lost in the confusion.
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- Released: 2005
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: It's mind-boggling to think that this contrived piece of teen comedy/drama, which owes much to any number of predecessors (notably 1990's PUMP UP THE VOLUME), was inspired by real events. And while the students whose exploits form the story's basis are fea… (more)