I love my job…..not every day of course!
Year Released : 2015
Director : Jason Strouse
Cast : Matt Letscher, Keegan-Michael Key, Sunny Mabrey, Larry Campbell, Jame Kaler, Jason Sklar, Randy Sklar, Chris Conner, Tamlyn Tomita and Brenda Strong
In recent months I have become a fan of Parks and Recreation, a comedy very much in the style of The Office and it is the first TV show in a long time that has actually made me laugh, so any film that I see that is made of a similar style automatically has my attention.
So whilst browsing trailers online a few weeks back, I found one for this mockumentary set in a school and although it looked a bit desperate in it’s attempts to make you laugh, I figured I would give it a chance. My enthusiasm wasn’t particularly overwhelming and so I am heading into the film with a low level of expectation.
Hopefully I’ll be surprised but I somehow doubt it.
Mitch Carter (Letscher) has recently won the award for Californian Teacher of the Year and his colleagues (well, most of them) couldn’t be happier for him. Carter himself is more humble about the award and still focuses on the students and their education, even if the students aren’t that concerned themselves.
Carter soon receives an offer for a new role that is almost double what he currently gets paid and would allow him to help more students than he could imagine, but with his life firmly settled in California, would he be prepared to uproot his family for it, and more importantly could he give up something he loves?
Meanwhile, controversy hits the school when Brian (Conner) is accused of sexually assaulting one of the students. The school reacts by immediately sacking Brian, even though there is no proof to back up the allegations against him, and he enlists the help of Mitch in the mediation process.
So was it as unfunny as I was expecting it to be?
I think that like most comedy, there is definitely an audience for what they’re trying to employ in this mockumentary, but for me I found the comedy, if indeed you can call it that, desperate. The jokes try and get you with a variety of different approaches, none of which are actually deserving of a laugh. For me it fails on the most fundamental level and it just became a joke. The most laughable part about this film is that someone, somewhere, thought it would be a good idea to make this.
I’ll start with some of the more basic examples of the primitive comedy that they try and employee and something that I would only expect a five year old to find funny. The principle’s surname is Douche….see, I’ve lost you right there haven’t I? Well he pronounces it as DOW-SHAY, but everyone else says it like you would expect, and it’s done in a way that is designed to make you laugh, but it fails miserably.
It’s almost the comedy equivalent of trying to get someone to laugh by having an obese character bend over and fart. It’s just not funny once you’re old enough to go to school, and as a 30 year old I found absolutely no humour in it whatsoever.
Arguably the worst users of this type of comedy are the characters portrayed by the Sklar brothers (I’m assuming they’re brothers anyway). Whilst the characters are probably written to be cringeworthy, the acting by the Sklar brothers is so bad that their attempts at being funny have the exact opposite effect. Every time they were on screen, I wanted them off screen as soon as possible and they serve pretty much no purpose to the story.
Their performances get so bad that they end up talking over each other on a regular basis. What should be a very fluid relationship between people who’ve known each other for their entire lives only ends up feeling like two random strangers that happen to look alike have been put in a room together. Out of the many flaws that this film has, having not only the characters, but having them played by two unfunny people that can’t act is one of the worst.
There are more unusual approaches to trying to make people laugh, such as one scene which involves all of the teachers doing parent-teacher meetings and one doesn’t go according to plan. The student is hispanic and he is translating for his mother, who doesn’t speak English, and he translate something to “Mr Carter, my mother constantly accuses me lying because I do my homework and she can’t check because she doesn’t speak English!” That is probably the closest I came to laugh, and even then I didn’t get even the slightest tickle.
In many ways I think that some of the better bits of the movie are the bits that aren’t trying to be funny, such as when one teacher is teaching the kids about the American Civil War. The kids aren’t listening to him and in his pleas he begs them to listen, even though they will never need to know that information again. In many ways this is very reflective of real life as most of what you learn in school isn’t relevant in real life whatsoever.
I think one of the main problems is that they also try to be too clever for their own good and because they’re concentrating on that, they make such basic mistakes. One such example comes within the first few minutes when they’re talking about the school and they show a student typing as if his life depended on it…..but you can see that he’s only on the Windows log in screen and the keystrokes don’t even add anything to the length of the password on the screen. If that student is actually typing something, it’s on a keyboard that’s connected to a computer that’s not right in front of him.
For what it is also worth, they got the main plot point wrong in my opinion, whilst I’m going to cover it more in my next paragraph with why Mitch is a poor lead character, the storyline about the accused sexual assault has far more potential to be interesting than whether a teacher is going to take a new job. Chris Conner is one of the very few that puts in a likable performance in the film and yet he, and the better story point, are relegated to second fiddle to a bunch of lifeless characters.
For me the biggest crime is that the characters just aren’t that interesting and whilst some are a realistic reflection on teaching, you just have no desire whatsoever to connect with these characters on any level whatsoever. The character of Mitch for example, the closest thing that the film has to a main character, is just bland and uninteresting. Letscher plays the character with no enthusiasm behind it and it shows in a lethargic performance of a character that isn’t that enjoyable to watch to begin with.
For every positive that I could potentially think of for this film, there are so many more than negatives that it would just feel almost pointless talking about them. The fact that it lasts barely over 70 minutes and that still felt like far too long is a true indication of just what this film is like.
A comedy that tries too hard to be funny is never a good thing. Comedy is arguably the hardest genre to get right because everyone has a different sense of humour and because I am older than five years old, I didn’t find the jokes in this film to be funny enough to warrant laughter.
The story itself isn’t particularly interesting or noteworthy, and the same can be said for pretty much the entire cast of characters. It would have been more interesting if the subplot of a teacher getting accused of sexually assaulting a child was actually the main story, and Mitch’s decision over whether to take a new job was relegated to it’s spot, but it’s not and that is one of a plethora of problems wrong with a film that feels lost in itself.
It’s just an ultimate nothing film.