Magazine article The Spectator

School for Scandal

Magazine article The Spectator

School for Scandal

Article excerpt

High School High (15, selected cinemas) Moll Flanders

(12, selected cinemas) David Zucker is the producer of Airplane! and the three Naked Gun movies. Sadly, he's unlikely to produce a Naked Gun 4, due to the fact that one of its stars, O.J. Simpson, is busy with sequels of his own, demanding a retrial of the retrial. (Incidentally, O.J.'s moronic Lieutenant Nordberg is a far more convincing characterisation of the LAPD than Johnnie Cochran's in his closing speech.)

So instead Zucker has given us High School High, a spoof of all those sanctimonious movies where a new teacher comes to a decaying inner-city school and turns the no-good punks around by relating to them on their own terms and showing them that Shakespeare is really just Elizabethan hip-hop. Or as the wonderful Jon Lovitz puts it, pleading with his principal, 'I don't think there is such a thing as a bad kid . . . I know I can reach them. I know what's def, what's whack, what's jam, what's booty.'

Airplane! and Naked Gun were sending up disaster movies and police thrillers, two admirably unpretentious genres. But the solemn self-regarding piousness of something like Michelle Pfeiffer's Dangerous Minds, not to mention the dubiousness of its educational philosophy, makes it a much more satisfying target, and gives the jokes more bite than usual. The first half-hour is pure joy: Lovitz, as history master Richard Clark, throws in his job at a swanky private academy (`Wellington College, are you white?' asks the switchboard operator) and goes to teach at Marion Barry High (named after Washington's celebrated crackhead mayor); you know he's getting near the school when, to his bewilderment, he finds the car radio plays only gangsta rap, no matter how furiously he retunes the dial. The school itself is a post-apocalyptic wasteland populated by sullen thugs; the parking lot has spaces for the National Guard and (in a sly reference to Zucker's old Naked Gun star) Johnnie Cochran; the careers advice stall is manned by Burger King; at assembly, the headmistress announces that the assistant principal is still missing: `If you have him, please contact me,' she says, as various simultaneous translators convert her announcement into Spanish, Ebonics etc.

One of the film's pleasures is Jon Lovitz waddling serenely through the carnage as if he's just stepped out of To Sir With Love. …

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