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Underachievers, The
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by Jack Sommersby

"As Bad As It Gets"
1 stars

After sitting through this atrocity, you'll want to take up Badminton as an alternative form of entertainment.

After having sung a few praises over the low-budget B-movie director Jackie Kong, whether it was her rural-Idaho-set monster flick The Being, the Police Academy knockoff Night Patrol, the comedy-horror schlock Blood Diner (the only recommendable of the three), it’s particularly depressing to report that her latest, The Underachievers, is downright awful in all aspects. In what was probably an innately stupid comic premise from the get-go, the movie takes place at a third-rate, tuition-free night school that caters to the very underbelly of society: residents of the local rescue mission; non-English speaking illegals; acumen-deprived Americans; and recently-convicted criminals given the school as a choice rather than jail due to prison overcrowding. The hero of the piece is one Danny Warren (Edward Albert), who’s been jailed with the rest of his low-echelon baseball team for a public disturbance; his fed-up father admits that Danny stinks as a player and bails everyone else out but him. And the cops, after learning that Danny is a high-school friend of the local drug kingpin, offer him immunity if he’ll go undercover as a narc and get secret recordings of the kingpin’s activities; and in turn the kingpin promises Danny a place in his organization if he’ll keep an eye on his foxy wife, who’s a teacher at the night school. So Danny enlists as a student and finds himself in the midst of what is supposed to be an ingratiating bunch of misfits but are actually so direly dull and wholly repugnant that they elicit about as much laughter as a non-Novocained root canal. The widely varied school curriculum consists of courses ranging from Creative Writing to Jewelry Design to Underwater Ballet for the Elderly (taught by a blonde bombshell with a penchant for going topless on more than a few occasions), with announcements on the intercom consisting of such unfunny bits as, “Anyone caught urinating on the teacher’s shoes will be suspended.” The bare-bones plot has something to do with the dastardly dean’s plot to flunk all of the students so it’ll create a major public-relations storm that will force this public-funded university to go back as a tuition institution. Director Neil Israel’s follow-up to his uproarious Bachelor Party was the fine Moving Violations, which took place at a driving school for adults with suspended licenses, and The Underachievers definitely could’ve benefited with even so much as a smidgen of that movie’s laugh quotient; unfortunately, Kong, who can be her own worst enemy when she has a hand in the screenplay department (Blood Diner wasn’t written by her), has co-written an odious array of poorly conceived scenes devoid of even a single chuckle. Kong’s idea of “wit” is having a clueless drama teacher instruct his students that “the more you sweat, the more you’re acting,” and when the kingpin is around to do nothing more than act as a profanity-spewing blowhard who goes ballistic whenever Danny calls him by his first time, you know Kong is reaching the very bottom of the barrel. And her timing is absolutely deadly in that she’s unable at ending a scene with a single viable visual punch line. Then again, it was her idea to cast the usually-adequate Albert (with horrendous peroxided hair and clad in loud clothing an sweatband) whose comic timing is akin to a drunk fumbling about for his car keys. The Underachievers is quite the fitting title in that its director certainly comes off as the ultimate underachiever of a moviemaker here.

Grade: F-minus

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=28969&reviewer=327
originally posted: 05/06/15 09:12:03
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  01-Jun-1988 (R)



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