At a Catholic high school, the popular girl teams up with a sophomore newspaper reporter to investigate a case of stolen SAT exams. Once the duo target their suspects, a larger conspiracy is unearthed.
High School. Four of the most important years of your life. But it isn't always dances and keg parties and sucking face in your parents' mini-van. Sometimes it's ugly and hard and complicated. As complicated as a conspiracy to overthrow the president. There's something rotten at St. Donovan's High and sophomore newspaper reporter Bobby Funke is on it like pink rubber bands on your little sister's braces. When senior hottie Francesca Facchini solicits Funke's help tracking down a set of stolen SATs, Funke uncovers a story dirtier than the lunch lady's mustache. After he fingers the school president (figuratively) for the crime, Funke becomes one of the most popular kids at St. Donovan's High. No longer known simply as the freshman who was once tied to a giant snowman penis, Funke wins the respect of everyone from the Desert-Storm-hero-turned-educator Principal Kirkpatrick to the kid that farts on him in Spanish class. When Francesca takes Funke to homecoming, even the in-school ... Written by
Yari Film Group
Although the location is never clearly stated, Principal Kirkpatrick, played by Bruce Willis, has the state flag of New Jersey in his office. Willis grew up in Penns Grove, New Jersey. See more »
In the scene where Marlon and Bobby play beer pong versus Tad, the scene cuts back and forth between shots to show the two teams. The shots repeatedly show a full set of cups, as if the game hadn't started yet, despite showing multiple shots where both sides had drunk some of the cups, revealing editing errors. See more »
You want to know the truth about high school? You've got to break it down into its elements. Unfortunately, at St. Donovan's, the periodic table is more crooked than a case of scoliosis. Just give me the chance and I'll set it all straight. Case in point, Spanish homework. "Dame un batido de esperma" does not mean, "Take me to the airport." It means, "Give me a sperm milkshake." And 22 kids gave that as an answer in Spanish 3 last week. I'm not sure about the milkshake, ...
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"Assassination of a High School President" is a pleasant surprise: a high school noir comedy where the joke is how seriously it takes itself. It never leaves the classroom - nothing that happens in it is too ridiculous - but it maintains a consistent sense of epic importance that successfully subverts, and is subverted by, its own fairly mundane story. On that level it's sort of brilliant; we understand how important the events of the story are to the characters while never losing track of how comically meager they are to us, the seasoned moviegoers. Now, just reading that, I can't imagine a more effective way of representing secondary school.
The story is this: (wannabe) star reporter of the school newspaper Bobby Funke (Reece Thompson) gets a puff piece on student body president Paul More (Patrick Taylor) at the same time a stack of SATs are stolen right out of Principal Kirpatrick's (Bruce Willis) office. Kirpatrick appoints Bobby as his head investigator and it turns out the two stories are deeply connected. More than that I will not say, although keep in mind this film is closer to Wes Anderson than James M. Cain.
And another thing it isn't is Rian Johnson's "Brick." Its 2005 genre predecessor and "Miller's Crossing" rip-off, that was the film where Joseph Gordon-Levitt was a down-and-out student playing two high school gangs against each other. It's the movie this one has been most compared to, unfavourably, although the two are nothing alike. "Brick" was a film of dead weight, a leaden "drama" with aged and dreary characters and a story meant to confuse and depress you. It was a gangly, nearly incomprehensible movie that's gained cult status mainly, I think, because most of its fans don't understand it. It was a movie with a story and setting that never came together, and with a sensibility and technique more heavy-handed than the worst Hollywood message movie.
"Assassination" just wants to make you laugh, and, in the process, laugh off the petty issues that plague high school life (I can see it being almost therapeutic for kids facing those problems today). It sparkles with an understated wit and has a real atmosphere to it; with stylish, brooding cinematography and dialogue that's one third noirspeak and two thirds teenage dirty-mindedness. It never plays above or below its own maturity level, at once broadly funny and fiendishly clever.
It's also a showcase for a host of young actors who are likely to become the Steve Buscemis and Robert Downey Jr.'s of their generation. Reece Thompson is note-perfect as Bobby, a classically straightlaced gumshoe-in-training who can't seem to catch a break. He holds the movie on his back and shows some real star power. Taylor is hilarious as the air-headed president, and Bobby's three stoner friends - Tanya Fischer, Luke Grimes and Vincent Piazza - inject their scenes with a put-upon camaraderie. Mischa Barton, Adam Pally and Melonie Diaz also shine.
The old pro's have a lot of fun with the material: Willis, Kathryn Morris and Michael Rapaport. Willis is particularly strong as the scene-stealing principal. He's a deadly serious, tough-as-nails man who can't stop talking about his tour of duty in the Gulf War - perhaps not the most appropriate coaching technique for a group of adolescents. His dialogue is spotless, timing perfect and intensity - palpable. Every scene he appears in elevates the material to a heightened level of pulp/pop culture craziness; you almost can't believe that's actually Bruce Willis standing there, having so much fun, almost impersonating himself. I'd go so far as to say Willis deserves a Supporting Actor nomination for his work here.
It's an effective comedy and an interesting mystery. It has a lot of fun with its premise instead of sticking to it with an almost dutiful monogamy like "Brick" did. It's well-made enough to make its director, Brent Simon, someone to watch out for. It's not perfect, the conclusion lacks some umph, but that only makes sense considering the film's last line: "Forget it Bobby, it's High School." 8/10
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