Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Assassination of a High School President: High School Confidential. . .and Wackiness

Either it's heaven or hell, the four years of high school define us, like it or not, preparing us for adulthood. Some of us are already "old" by that time and the lead hero, Bobby Funke, of the breezy, smart aleck school satire/mystery/coming-of-age opus, "Assassination Of a High School President", is definitely one of them.

If he's not correcting the way people pronouncing his last name (the "e" is silent); noting his grade status, despite his baby face (sophomore); trying (and failing) to get his driver's license or downplaying the event of him being tied to a giant penis made out of snow (!), Funke (Reece Daniel Thompson of "Rocket Science") is trying to be a wunderkind newshound at the Catholic high school he attends, St. Donovan. Problem is he hasn't finished a piece.

So, the paper's editor (spunky Melonie Diaz of "Raising Victor Vargas") assigns Funke to do a piece on class prez/basketball player Paul Moore (Patrick Taylor). Moore's basically a himbo, but also becomes a patsy when the SAT tests scores are stolen from the principal's office. Seeing himself akin to Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, Funke rolls with the story and becomes a hero. He even gets the amorous respect of Moore's ex-girl, the popular Francesa Fachini (Mischa Barton of "The O.C.").

However, things are more sinister, especially involving Moore's successor/Francesa's step-sib, handsome but sleazy Marlon Piazza (Luke Grimes of the TV drama, "Brothers and Sisters") and that puts Funke is a tight squeeze between high school popularity and journalistic integrity.

An entry at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, "Assassination" is a dark, witty romp that plays on the inanities of high school by putting them in a mystery/pulp noir bag. Sure, "Brick" did it before, but "Assassination" has more humor, subtle and loud, thanks to first-time feature film helmer Brett Simon (did some music videos) and tyro scribes Tim Calpin and Kevin Jakubowski (both were crew members on "South Park").

A younger version of Tom Cruise but with likable geekiness, Thompson shines with an old man complex (he's probably the only student who knows who the aforementioned reporters are!). He wants to belong, but the environment's twisted and immature, despite it being a Catholic high school. Barton's pretty durable in the junior femme fatale role, not deserving the attacks from people who probably never went to an acting class.

The surprise here's Bruce Willis (how the fuck did he get in this and you know what he's been in, mother-fucker) as the school's hard ass principal, war vet Jared T. Kirkpatrick, who has a zero-tolerance policy against gum chewing and reminisces about his Gulf War days. Like Adam Baldwin's John Casey of "Chuck", Kirkpatrick's a mentally jittery trigger who resents being in a mundane workplace, infested with social scofflaws.

Some of said individuals help with Funke's investigation, including perverts Dutch Middleton (Joe Perrino) and Ricky Delacruz (Vincent Piazza, also of "Science" and "Boardwalk Empire") and jailbait stripper Sam Landis (Cameron Diaz-like Tanya Fischer of the new TV version of "The Defenders").

The faculty's nuts too. Josh Pais ("Teeth") is a Spanish-language teacher who has an inappropriate lust over the students. Nurse Platt (Kath Morris of "Cold Case") is no different but more hippie-like. Michael Rappaport ("Hitch", "Big Fan") is an overgrown teenager of a basketball coach who's actually a English teacher. The inmates have taken over, people.

With cleverness and echoes from "Chinatown", "Rushmore", "The Usual Suspects" and "Assassin of Youth", "Assassination" is a nice nutty take on how high school can be both cruel and hysterical. It's a nice movie to watch on a Saturday night, if nothing's good on the TV.

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