The Assassination of a High School President
starring Reece Thompson, Mishca Baron, Michael Rapap, Kathryn Morris, Josh Pais and Bruce Willis
written by Tim Calpin and Kevin Jakubowski
directed by Brett Simon
This film was very well reviewed, but except for Bruce Willis’ performance as neurotic Iraq War veteran Principal Kirkpatrick, I didn’t like it because I expected more from it. Maybe I was hoping to see a Columbine High Schoolshooting kind of story. It is a clever film in a wacky, movie nerd’s kind of way. But I am so conservative that I still like stories to be clean and make sense - I mean, well-defined and simple. Assassination is another high school movie. In this case, an unpopular wannabe school newspaper reporter uncovers a student drug-pedaling ring while researching an article on the popular jock student body president. All the high school stereotypes are present: the popular jocks and their glamorous girlfriends; the academics; the bullies; the unpopular nerds; the sluts; the nihilists; the fat chicks; the cliques that Americans always mis-pronounce as “clicks,” etc.
Every generation - maybe every decade - has it’s favorite high school movie(s). My experience with this genre began with Goodbye Mr. Chips (1939, starring Robert Donat, and the fair 1969 re-make starring Peter O’Toole). Next, Good Morning Miss Dove (1955, starring Jennifer Jones, it is about elementary school, not high school, but I love that film.). Then, Blackboard Jungle (1955, starring Glenn Ford). To Sir With Love (1967, starring Sydney Poitier) remains a favorite of many. American Graffiti (1973, starring Ron Howard and Richard Dreyfuss); Grease (1978, starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton John). I think Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982, starring Sean Penn and Judge Reinhold) is perhaps the greatest high school movie ever, but it came soon after another landmark high school movie, 1979’s Rock ’n Roll High School, featuring The Ramones. The 1980’s saw a proliferation of popular high school coming of age movies, several by John Landis and John Hughes: The Breakfast Club (1985, Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, et al); St. Elmo’s Fire (1985, starring Demi Moore, not directed by either Landis or Hughes); Pretty in Pink (1986, starring Molly Ringwald); the iconic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986, starring Matthew Broderick); She’s Having a Baby (1988, starring Kevin Bacon); Stand and Deliver(1988, starring Edward James Olmos) was so powerful that it still resonates today, as does Dead Poets’ Society(1989, starring Robin Williams). Moving on, School Ties (1992, starring Brendan Fraser), Mr. Holland’s Opus(1995, starring Richard Dreyfuss), and Rushmore (1998, starring Bill Murray). Rushmore was very well reviewed, but I didn’t dig it, either, so in my mind I tend to group Rushmore with Assassination.
Television is not left out. These are the high school TV shows I used to watch: Welcome Back Kotter (1975-1979, starring Gabe Kaplan and a young John Travolta as “Vinnie Barbarino”); James at 15 (1977-78, also known as “James at 16”). I loved that show, though it was dumped after just two seasons. The White Shadow (1978-1981); Degrassi Junior High (1987-1991), and currently we’ve got Glee.
These are only the movies and TV shows that I have seen. There are hundreds of other movies about teenagers that are not about high school life especially, many of which I have also seen. The Wild One (1953, Marlon Brando), Rebel Without a Cause (1955, James Dean), Gidget (1959, Sandra Dee), the Beach Party movies of the early 1960s, Back to the Future (1985, Michael J. Fox), and on and on.
Anyway, while I was watching Assassination of a High School President I kept thinking, “What kind of retards are these American retards?!”