Class Act

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Genius high school student Duncan Pinderhughes (Christopher “Kid” Reid) is getting ready for graduation, but is somewhat disheartened to find out that, despite his perfect SAT score and 4.0 GPA, prestigious Hafford University (parody of Harvard University) will not admit him unless he can pass phys. ed. Ex-convict Michael “Blade” Brown (Christopher “Play” Martin) is released from jail, and told by his parole officer (Rick Ducommun) that the condition of his release is satisfactory graduation from high school. A mishap results in their pictures being swapped on their permanent school records. In effect, Blade is surprised to find out that he is being placed in gifted classes, while Duncan is shocked to be placed in minimal classes with substandard conditions and miscreants for classmates.

Blade realizes this and sees Duncan as his ticket permanently out of jail, since Duncan could pass his classes with ease. He transforms Duncan into a version of himself with dreadlocks, and does his best to teach Duncan how to act and talk like a gangsta. Having no grasp of hip hop culture, Duncan’s parents begin to worry about their son’s new “friend”; his father especially, beginning to suspect Duncan is gay.

Blade manages to smooth-talk his way through his advanced classes, even successfully executing a dissertation on sexual intercourse (one of his favorite subjects). Duncan ends up running into a high school thug named Wedge (Lamont Johnson), and gets in trouble, but also ends up discovering an uncanny ability to kick field goals, and joins the school’s football team. Both Blade and Duncan end up with girlfriends that the other would have, with Blade smooth-talking the intelligent but excitement-seeking Ellen (Karyn Parsons) and Duncan being pursued by the wild Damita (Alysia Rogers).

A drug dealer named Mink (Thomas Mikal Ford) was told by his employee Wedge that Blade Brown was stepping into his territory and a chase involving the guys and their girlfriends and one of Duncan’s new buddies ensues. The gang briefly lose Wedge and Mink and go to Damita’s work (a wax museum), but are discovered by Mink and Wedge. Once there, the girlfriends realize that their men are swapped, and both guys eventually end up dumped. Still, Duncan manages to knock out Wedge in the museum, while Blade handles Mink, but they all end up in jail.

After the mix-up is corrected, Blade, Duncan and company are all set free. In an anti-climax, Duncan and Blade both enter a Knowledge bowl in an effort to get Blade back with Ellen. They succeed when Blade answers a tiebreaker question to win the competition, recalling a choice tidbit Ellen once told him. Afterward, both couples end up together. In a final scene, Duncan’s dad finds out the hard way that Duncan is definitely not gay by catching him and Damita having sex in Duncan’s bedroom. However, after returning to his room with his wife, he expresses relief and noted that his son’s girlfriend is “stacked”.

Walking in each other’s shoes dramatically changed the lives of both Duncan and Blade. In the epilogue, the audience learns that Blade graduated from high school and attended Hafford (even wearing preppy attire), while Duncan attended Stanford on a football scholarship.

REVIEW:

One of the rap groups that I think is severely overlooked, while less “talented” acts of today, if that what you want to call running around on stage with your pants below your butt spouting nonsense about killing and raping, get nothing but praise is Kid ‘N Play. These guys not only were a fun act to watch, they made music that could be played on the radio. Also, they made a nice little film career for themselves. Aside from those House Party films, we have this entry on their resume, Class Act.

What is this about?

Duncan is a genius straight A student, Blade is juvenile delinquent. But because of a mix up with their school records, everyone thinks each is the other one. Now, Duncan kind of likes the attention from being thought of as a real bad dude, if only the school bully would stop trying to rough him up. And Blade definitely likes being thought of as important instead of as trouble, if only the teacher would stop hitting on him for a date.

What did I like?

No race card. I hesitate to talk about this, but it is something worth mentioning. This is obviously a film with a predominantly African-American cast, and yet there are no mentions of race at all. Surprising, because this is something that almost always happens, unless you’re on The Cosby Show. All the elements are there to make this a “race” movie, prison, smart kid in an inner city school, parole officer, white teachers/administrators, etc., but nothing. Good on them for not falling into that trap and just making a movie, regardless of the color of everyone’s skin.

The switch. Kid ‘N Play, at least in their movies, tend to have opposite personalities which sets up perfectly for an identity switch film. For the most part, this works, as we get the comedic situations of them walking in each other’s shoes. The juvenile delinquent switching with the prim and proper genius? Come on, how could that not work? Throw in the ladies they meet (who are gorgeous, and fit more in with their opposites’ personality) and I say that this turns out to be a worthy switch.

Wax on. In all the action films I’ve seen in my day, I don’t believe any have ever gone into a wax museum. Now, this isn’t an action film, but they are chased in there. It is something different to be in a house of wax, rather than some abandoned warehouse down by the river, a casino, or an abandoned construction site, for example. Kudos to the filmmakers for having an original vision, or at least picking a location that is barely used, if at all, in cinema.

What didn’t I like?

Oblivious parents. How is it that this mixup in the office went unnoticed for so long? Obviously, the school was incompetent, but what about the parents? Did they not realize that their kids were in classes they weren’t supposed to be in, especially Kid’s parents. I know that had this happened to me when I was in school, my mom and dad would have been up at that school before dawn the next day to make sure the error was corrected and to give the school officials a piece of their mind…and then some.

Must there be drugs? Drugs make an appearance in the plot. Well, not really drugs so much as a drug dealer. My question is, why? Not only are the drugs not mention for the entire film, until we get to the 3rd act, but it just seems as if they needed some kind of antagonist who was over the token “bully”. I think back to House Party and remember those 3 guys. They were just bullies. No drugs, guns, or anything, and they worked just fine. Something similar would have worked here, or perhaps some rival from Play’s time in jail, but a drug dealer? Come on now, be more original! I must say, though, that the drug dealer did mange to connect this film and Encino Man through a random cameo by Pauly Shore (if he’s not playing the same character, it is one with the exact same clothes, hair, and style of talking.)

Hair. One of the defining characteristics of Kid ‘N Play was kids hi-top fade. When I last saw him, it was on some random sitcom that he made a guest appearance on, he was sporting a regular hair style. Not a surprise really, since he is more of an actor than a rapper these days and hi top fades aren’t the style anymore. However, I seem to recall one time where he had braids, and I wonder if this film was the start of that. At any rate, Kid is identified by his hair, so I Play to a much lesser extent. Both of them went and changed their styles for this film. At least they worked the change into the plot, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it!

Class Act apparently has a rather huge fanbase. I was reading somewhere that this was not meant to be released on DVD, but there was such a huge outcry for it that the studios decided to go ahead and release it. Power to the people, eh? As high school comedies go, this is ok, but given the fact that Kid ‘N Play, as well as the rest of the cast, are way past high school (you can see the 5 o’clock shadow on Kid in some scenes), this might have worked better in college or in the “real world”. Still, I found this to be enjoyable. Do I recommend it? Yes, it is a decent little movie. The music, clothes, and slang will take you back to the 90s and the film itself will have you wondering why these guys stopped making movies when it is obvious they had an actual talent for it. Give it a shot, why don’t you?

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

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