I’ll bet you’re wondering why I asked you here in the middle of the night. I have a favour to ask of you, Steve, something that will be our little secret. You up to it?
The most dangerous films to watch are those that you loved when you were younger but haven’t watched in years and you are left asking yourself “Why did I ever like this?” That’s one of the reasons why I have left reviewing this film until now.
Cast your minds back to 1995, O.J Simpson goes on trial for murder, Manchester United fail to win the Premier League for the first time, a sheep is controversially cloned and films such as “Braveheart” and “The Usual Suspects” are released. For me, it was the start of my final year at primary school as I turn 11 and during that year I also saw a comedy which I loved called “National Lampoon’s Senior Trip”.
I haven’t covered comedies on this site too often, infact, just twice have I wrote about films that are outright comedy, and one of those was the monstrosity that was “Frank”, but I decided to add to that small collection given I have recently struggled to find films that aren’t well known that I would be interested in watching. The film is now most famous for being the on-screen debut of Jeremy Renner, who has since gone on to achieve success in films such as “28 Days Later”, “The Hurt Locker”, and the Marvel film franchise.
Whilst in a class detention for throwing a party at the house of Principle Moss (Frewer), a group of students express their discontent at the education system and they are encouraged to write a letter to the President about their thoughts on improving it. Much to the surprise of everyone involved, the letter is taken seriously and they are asked to travel to Washington to speak in front of the senate.
Everything seems to be going as planned until their bus driver overdoses and dies. Suddenly the the troublesome students, lead by Mark (Jenner) and Reggie (Moore), have to make their own way to American’s capital and as well as avoiding a Star Trek obsessed loner (McDonald) who is bent on revenge on Reggie after being offended.
The mischief continues when they arrive in the capital before realising that the senator has decided to use the letter and the presentation by the students as a way to embarrass the President and strengthen his own campaign for the next election.
So does it still work?
I can’t actually recall the last time I watched the film, but I’m pretty certain I can guarantee that it was when I was a teenager, so I decided to wipe my mind of the film and what happens and treat it like it was the first time I was watching it. This way I could give a very objective review and not base it on something I haven’t watched for at least ten years.
I’m not going to lie, I was sat here expecting to really not like the film and question why I ever liked it, much like I mentioned earlier, but I did actually enjoy it for the most part. I’m not going to sit here and lie by saying that it’s the best film ever or anything close. It’s not as fun as a lot of other films set with characters in their teens, especially compared to those from the 1980s, such as Bill and Ted, but either way it is still better than anything of a similar nature that you get these days.
One thing that modern day films set in schools suffer with is that they very rarely give the roles to actors that are around that age. Sometimes it works and others it doesn’t, and in this it doesn’t. The actors are clearly at least several years into adulthood and it doesn’t make it convincing. Whilst the actors and actresses in NLST are older than high school age, they have at least tried. Here is a breakdown of some of the students and the age of the actor/actress portraying that character.
Mark D’Agostino – Played by Jeremy Renner – 24
Carla Morgan – Played by Tara Charendoff – 22
Meg Smith – Played by Nicole De Boer – 25
Steve Nisser – Played by Sergio Di Zio – 23
Lisa Perkins – Played by Fiona Loewi – 20
Barry Kemmer – Played by Danny Smith – 22
I will give them credit for not using actors who closing in on 30, or are indeed above, it’s refreshing to see them use actors that could pass for being younger than they are, and even Nicole De Boer (who was also in the recently reviewed “Cube”, as was fellow NLST cast member, Wayne Robson) looks like a school student, that despite being 25. At least they’ve actually tried rather than just going out and finding any actor or actress willing to just take a pay day despite their unsuitability for the role.
There were also moments early on that made me laugh, even though it’s nearly 20 years since I initially saw the film, such as a very mild-mannered older teacher telling the students to calm down in the middle of a rave in a tone like he’s in a library, an elderly secretary’s exceptionally delayed reactions, a typing teacher having a heart-attach and Barry typing out exactly what noises are being made rather than trying to help and many other similar moments.
In the early parts it does what comedies should do, it doesn’t make things funny through slapstick, but rather relatively well thought jokes and I was genuinely surprised that I still found it funny.
My main criticism of the film comes from most of the characters being a stereotype of some variety, there are no “normal” people whatsoever and each of the characters and events do become somewhat predictable. Characters such as Carla and Steve are exceptionally one dimensional and even though they’re not major characters,
Whilst there were some jokes that did make me laugh, there were others where it seemed like they were just saying stupid things for the sake of saying stupid things. For example, at one point Mark is asking Barry what his opinion is on a girl that he likes and after a few minutes and another student butting in, this following conversation takes place, this is word for word;
Miosky: I wanna do a Jap.
Barry : Hey! How about Carla Morgan? I hear she’s half Jewish!
Miosky: Not that kind of Jap. A real Jap from China.
I don’t even know where to start with that, the referring to people from Japan simply as “Japs” is, I’m pretty certain, a bit racist, where there is no need to be, a character thinking that “Jap” means Jewish and that the character thinks that the “Jap” would be from China. I mean there’s trying to be funny and then there’s just being stupid.
As the film goes on these stupid moments do become a bit more frequent and what made it enjoyable at first becomes more tedious as it goes on. That’s not to say that there aren’t enjoyable parts, but by in large the jokes do become less and less funny as it goes on.
Whilst it may never go down as one of the best comedies in history, it still makes a commendable effort for it’s low budget and whilst it is somewhat held back by largely one-dimensional characters, it’s still an enjoyable romp at first. As it goes on it does become less enjoyable and feels more like a chore to watch, but overall it still has some very good moments.
Don’t go in expecting anything incredible, but if it means anything, it is definitely one of the more unique low budget comedies I’ve seen in my life.