I don’t think I had unreasonable expectations. After all, any movie that claims as its top selling point the fact that it features “top MTV reality personalities and other up-and-coming celebrities” is obviously not likely a candidate for enshrinement by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Still, I humbly and sincerely submit that American High School is a movie every bit as terrible as if not worse than the single worst American high school experience of any teenager of the past quarter century. It is a war crime in celluloid form.
It’s the final week of senior year, and everything is coming to a head. Distressed SoCal high schooler Gwen (Jillian Murray, in a departure from her role in Disney Channel’s upcoming TV series Sonny with a Chance) and her exhibitionist husband (yep, you read that right) Holden Adams (Talan Torriero) are perhaps headed for divorce. Gwen’s rich and popular rival, described as “a devil with a vagina,” is Hillary Weiss (Aubrey O’Day, Danity Kane pop princess turned Playboy cover girl), a scheming manipulator who’ll do anything to both nab the prom queen crown and steal Holden away. Toss in a diminutive principal (Martin Klebba, because dwarves equal automatic laughs, right?), a vapid art teacher who inexplicably dresses in lingerie (Nikki Ziering, former Playboy Playmate and jock-warmer to Beverly Hills
90210 star Ian Ziering) and two trash-talking himbos (James Foley and Brian Drolet, of The Hills) who go by the monikers Matt Mysterio and Jonny Awesome. Then mix along with a handful of other slutty associates and students, scramble nonsensically, and serve, steaming.
I don’t at all mind “dumb” comedy, and can even forgive production values compromised by a low budget, but American High School is idiotic and infuriating because there’s absolutely no interior logic to its story, nor does it work in any way, shape or form as a series of discrete hormonal sketches. Right out of the box, Gwen is pegged as “unpopular,” when there’s hearty evidence to the contrary. The movie treats her marriage to Holden as neither legitimate and sincere, nor satirical, so it never really makes any sense that Gwen would be concerned about what peers to whom she’s tethered for only one more year claim to think of her. This fact — a huge story point — is emblematic of the lack of attention and thought given the narrative. Let’s see… what else is never adequately explained? A few parts of the movie unfold in direct-address to a webcam. Male students wander around without shirts, and sometimes run assemblies. Oh, and the principal is a hornball who plays grab-ass with an exchange student, which only seems to further turn on his secretary.
None of these bits are clever, genre-tweaking satire, though, a la Not Another Teen Movie. Sometimes the absurdity is accepted, sometimes commented upon. All the jokes and dialogue, meanwhile, are uniformly awful, and there’s simply nothing here, no overall through line or purpose. To dull the pain, about halfway through the movie I started pounding rum-and-Cokes, but it wasn’t enough to summon laughter, alas. There’s only one truly funny moment in the movie, and it comes in the first 20 minutes or so and lasts all of two seconds; it’s when Klebba’s principal allows himself a moment of quiet self-satisfaction after using the school’s P.A. system, and murmurs, “Another amazing announcement.” The single other time I laughed or cracked a smile occurred when a gummy-tacked wall poster fell down in the background of a long shot, and then immediately reappeared in the next shot. Oh, and for the record, to those in the under-17 set just looking for some cheap boobs-and-butt action, Ziering provides the movie’s only nudity (though, as mentioned,
there’s lots of shirtlessness on the guys’ parts too), but her enormous, surgically enhanced breasts are matched in their unnerving nature by her plasticized face; it’s all a non-starter, fellas.
Housed in a white, regular plastic Amaray case, American High School comes presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, with a Dolby digital 5.1 surround sound audio track and optional English subtitles for the deaf and hearing-impaired, who’ve never had it so lucky as when missing all the lame, ADR-appended air-quote jokes crammed along this movie’s edges. The chief supplemental feature is a feature-length audio commentary track with writer-director Sean Patrick Cannon, producer Raquel Tolmaire, and actors Murray, Drolet,
Ashley Ann Cook and Nick Shakoour. Cannon repeatedly says “I like this,” scene after scene, and talks a lot about how he favors triangular composition, like he’s the next Orson Welles. Everyone else seems rather (surprisingly) genuinely stoked by the results; there’s precious little talk of budgetary compromise or production hardships, though Murray scores a few points for honesty by pointing out (the very visually obvious) microphone pack on her leg in one scene. Other bonus features consist of a TV spot and the theatrical trailer, along with 19 more excruciating minutes of deleted scenes and an alternate ending, all with optional audio commentary from Cannon and his actors. If for some reason you still feel the need to purchase the film on DVD, via Amazon, click here. F (Movie) C (Disc)