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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Brett Simon
Cast:
Mischa Barton, Reece Daniel Thompson, Bruce Willis, Patrick Taylor
Writing Credits:
Tim Calpin, Kevin Jakubowski

Tagline:
Politics, popularity, paranoia, pharmaceuticals. Are you in?

Synopsis:
How far would you go to hang with the hottest girl on campus? Assassination of a High School President is an acid-tongued high-school comedy with attitude to spare, starring a sexy young cast including Mischa Barton, Reece Daniel Thompson, and superstar Bruce Willis. Sophomore newspaper reporter Bobby Funke (Thompson) is assigned to write a cover story on popular class president and top athlete. After a stack of SAT tests is stolen from the office of hard-as-nails Principal Kirkpatrick (Willis), Funke publishes an expose that names Paul as the prime suspect and suddenly, Bobby is BMOC. But when Paul's girlfriend, sexy senior Francesca (Barton), makes a move on Bobby and even his former bullies play nice, Funke begins to doubt the star jock's guilt and everyone else's motives. When his investigation uncovers a campus-wide conspiracy that threatens to take down students and teachers alike, Funke must decide to tell the truth or enjoy his new stud status. Also starring Michael Rapaport, Luke Grimes and Aaron Himelstein.

Box Office:
Budget
$11.5 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.40:1/16X9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 93 min.
Price: $24.96
Release Date: 10/6/2009

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Brett Simon and Screenwriters Tim Calpin and Kevin Jakubowski
• Alternate Opening Sequences with Optional Commentary
• Extended, Alternate and Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
• Previews


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Assassination Of A High School President (2008)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 1, 2009)

In the spirit of acidic high school flicks like Rushmore and Election comes 2009’s Assassination of a High School President. Ambitious but nerdy high sophomore Bobby Funke (Reece Daniel Thompson) hopes to enter the prestigious Northwestern University summer journalism program. The problem: he never finishes any articles. He gets a new assignment to write up a story about student body president Paul Moore (Patrick Taylor) but this goes nowhere, as he doesn’t find much substance.

This changes when someone steals the SATs from the office of Principal Kirkpatrick (Bruce Willis). Egged on by sexy senior – and Paul’s girlfriend – Francesca (Mischa Barton), Bobby takes on an investigation to find the thief. His prime suspect? Paul Moore. This alters Bobby’s social standing, but he eventually begins to doubt his beliefs. Should Bobby tell the truth or should he maintain his newfound popularity?

While not a bad flick, I find it hard to believe that Assassination will ever become a cult classic ala Rushmore or Election. No doubt that it really wants to achieve that status, though. In particular, the film wears its Wes Anderson influence on its sleeve. The movie definitely gives off a Rushmore vibe; from its stylistic conceits to its use of music to its lead, I get the feeling the filmmakers screened that 1998 effort many times before they started on this one. It also churns out a lot of obvious references to The Usual Suspects.

I wouldn’t mind the derivative nature of Assassination so much if it boasted the same level of wit and cleverness as its predecessors. Instead, the movie seems to run on some form of hipster cruise control. It acts as a spoof of both film noirs and high school flicks – for its first half, at least, as eventually it essentially becomes one of the teen movies it attempts to mock.

As a parody, it flops. We’ve seen too many similar efforts in the past, and Assassination brings nothing especially clever or new to the table. The vast majority of the jokes revolve around kids doing or saying crude things. The only reason these gags differ from those in non-indie teen flicks stems from this movie’s ironic distance; it mocks as it attempts to make us laugh.

And if it did create amusement, that’d be fine. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the comedic bits fall flat, and the movie usually suffers from Tries Too Hard Syndrome. It wants so badly to be hip and cool, but instead it’s just pretentious and boring.

The biggest irony is that the mystery plot is the only aspect of the film that really entertains. In spite of itself, Bobby’s investigation and all its tangents actually create real intrigue. That story tanks a bit at the end – don’t expect a great payoff – but at least it keeps us going for quite a while.

It’s too bad that the rest of the movie isn’t as entertaining. Assassination comes with an interesting concept but just flounders when it attempts to execute that idea in a satisfying way. It ends up as a pretty dull attempt at parody.


The DVD Grades: Picture C-/ Audio C+/ Bonus B-

Assassination of a High School President appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The DVD offered a consistently problematic transfer.

Sharpness was one of the concerns. Close-ups looked fine, but wider shots tended to suffer from a definite lack of precision and detail. Moderate edge haloes made matters worse, and mosquito noise also created a messier look than expected. Some jagged edges and shimmering also appeared, but source flaws were absent.

The film went with a fairly stylized palette. Most scenes used a brownish tint, though other featured more of a garish blue-green impression. Like the rest of the image, the colors tended to be mediocre, as they never provided very good clarity. Blacks were acceptably tight, but shadows tended to be somewhat murky. I thought this was a “C-“ presentation.

Though it lacked overt flaws, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Assassination didn’t do much to impress. Granted, I wouldn’t expect – or want – anything super-active from a film such as this. Music featured good stereo presence, but otherwise the track did little more than provide general ambience. If anything notable occurred in terms of side or surround usage, I didn’t notice it; this was a decidedly low-key presentation.

Audio quality was fine, at least. Music showed good clarity and range, while speech sounded clear and natural. Effects played a small role, but they came across as reasonably accurate. I didn’t have any real problems with this mix, but it was too subdued for anything above a “C+”.

A few extras fill out the package. First comes an audio commentary with director Brett Simon and screenwriters Tim Calpin and Kevin Jakubowski. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific look at the project’s roots and development, story, characters and editing, cast and performances, sets and locations, music, cinematography and visual design.

Overall, we get a good commentary here. The participants cover a nice array of subjects and do so in an entertaining manner. The three guys mesh together well and offer a little humor along the way in this informative chat.

A bunch of unused footage also shows up here. We get two Alternate Opening Sequences (5:40), 11 Extended and Alternate Scenes (20:42) and six Deleted Scenes (6:45). That’s a lot of cut material; does any of it provide lost gold? No, not really, though the underused Michael Rapaport gets a little more screentime here. Most of the scenes feel pretty redundant, so don’t expect anything especially interesting from the clips.

We can watch the scenes with or without commentary from Simon, Calpin and Jakubowski. They tell us about the sequences and let us know why the clips got cut. Once again, they give us useful and interesting notes.

The DVD opens with a few ads. We get promos for The Informers, Black Dynamite, and The Accidental Husband. These also appear under Previews along with clips for Blood: The Last Vampire, Year One, The Maiden Heist, Hardwired, Fireflies in the Garden, Dark Country, Fragments, The Ugly Truth, Adoration, Rescue Me Season 5 and Blu-ray Disc. No trailer for Assassination appears here.

The Assassination of a High School President looks entertaining on paper, but the actual product proves much less engrossing. Although it boasts a surprisingly intriguing mystery story, it wants to be a comedy spoof, and it flops in that regard. Neither funny nor clever, it usually bores. The DVD offers erratic picture and mediocre audio along with a decent collection of extras. I didn’t think much of the DVD or the movie it offered.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.6 Stars Number of Votes: 5
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