Plot: Richard Clark (Jon Lovitz) is a teacher at a high class, prestigious private academy, but he dislikes his station in life. The students and fellow faculty don’t respect him and he longs to leave his father’s shadow, so Clark gives up his plush position and heads for a real challenge in education. He has accepted a teaching role at Marion Barry High School, one of the area’s most infamous, violent, and least effective institutions, but he plans to make a difference. The change in scenery doesn’t seem to have much impact, as he still has problems with students being disinterested, though he sees some potential in some of his pupils. His desire to make a difference is real, but his determination is also renewed thanks to Victoria (Tia Carrere), one of his fellow teachers that Clark has all but fallen head over heels for. Can Clark somehow find a way to get through to his students or has he made a huge mistake with this drastic career change?
Entertainment Value: High School High seems like it wants to be a broad spoof of the inspirational teacher genre, but unlike The Naked Gun or Airplane, the movie never lets loose with the barrages of humor. Instead, it takes potshots at the tropes and cliches, but also follows many of them to the letter, including trying to wrench some emotion out of its paper thin narrative. The story is in line with the films it wants to poke fun at, but again, High School High ends up falling into the same conventions as the movies it wants to have a laugh at. The movie has some laughs when it just focuses on the humor and spoof elements, but for some reason, it sometimes slides out of that tone, as it wants to be taken a little seriously at times. Not emotional drama serious of course, but more serious than the rest of the slapstick, over the top comedic approach. I’ve seen much more uneven comedies and certainly less funny ones, but this could have been a solid movie if it had stuck with the spoof approach. Instead, we have a passable, but forgettable effort that provides a few laughs here and there. But I do like that Jon Lovitz has a lead role, so there is that.
I think the main reason I appreciated High School High more than most is that I like the humor of Jon Lovitz, who is here in one of his few leading roles. I don’t know that Lovitz does more than his usual routine here, so perhaps he isn’t a dazzling lead performer, but if you like his style of comedy, you’ll likely have some laughs here. But if you haven’t been a fan of his work, this movie probably isn’t going to turn you into one, since he just does his typical shtick and little else. I think his comic vibe works well enough here, as he is always awkward and kind of oblivious, which is what the role requires. Louise Fletcher is also on hand and as always, brings a good performance, but of course, her role is a supporting one and this isn’t the kind of dramatic material that lets her talents shine. The cast also includes Mekhi Phifer, Tia Carrere, Brian Hooks, and Natasha Gregson Wagner, while Hart Bochner was the film’s director.
The Disc: Mill Creek Entertainment has released High School High as part of a Nineties Comedy Double Feature, with Mo’ Money as the other half of the bill. The movie looks good in this edition, with a clean print and bright colors, while detail is solid and is consistent. I wouldn’t rank this as one of the better high definition treatments I’ve seen, but fans should appreciate the improvement over the DVD versions and of course Mill Creek’s value price helps.