Kickin' It Old Skool
Rated PG-13, 107 min. Directed by Harvey Glazer. Starring Jamie Kennedy, Maria Menounos, Miguel A. Nuñez Jr., Michael Rosenbaum, Christopher McDonald, Debra Jo Rupp, Bobby Lee, Aris Alvarado.
Kickin’ It Old Skool begins in 1986, and like The Wedding Singer, another comedy that mines Eighties pop-culture flotsam and jetsam, it contains a scene featuring the early hip-hop classic, “Rapper’s Delight,” by Sugarhill Gang. In Adam Sandler’s Wedding Singer, 80-year-old character actress Ellen Albertini Dow raps the song at her 50th wedding anniversary party, and the result is the high point of a surprisingly funny and charming picture. In Kennedy’s latest opus, meanwhile, the song is playing on the radio while 12-year-old breakdancer Justin Schumacher (Alexander Calvert) pops and locks in front of his mirror in a pair of parachute pants and a leather jacket covered in zippers, and the result is little more than the humorless blueprint for an unbearably painful slog. That slog follows Justin to a school talent show, where, in a dance-off between his crew, the Funky Fresh Boys, and a rival gang, led by the rich and sleazy Kip (Taylor Beaumont), he attempts a daring spin-flip combination that results in his flying offstage headfirst onto the floor below and ending up in a coma. If only the movie had ended there, it would have been nothing more than a harmless cautionary tale about the dangers of hubris and wearing fingerless gloves. Instead, it insists on flashing forward 20 years. Justin (Kennedy) is now in his 30s and, after a surprise recovery, is newly returned to the world of the conscious and ready to get back to dancing so he can win a competition to remunerate his parents for his medical bills and reclaim the love of his elementary-school sweetheart (Menounos), who, to the surprise of no one anywhere, is now engaged to the grownup Kip (Rosenbaum). Still possessing the mind and naivete of a 12-year-old, Justin gathers the original members of the Boys (now all settled adults and comic stereotypes) and proceeds to dance his way through a series of predictable gags and low-rent cultural parody. The continued existence of Jamie Kennedy as a factor in the entertainment industry is a source of absolute confusion to me. His success as the host of the television prank show The Jamie Kennedy Experiment (the missing link between Dick Clark’s TV’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes and Ashton Kutcher’s Punk’d), and the fact that he was allowed to make another movie after 2003’s unwatchable Malibu’s Most Wanted are reasons enough to question the justness of the universe. Kennedy’s humor comes from the broad, brainless, lowest-common-denominator school (in other words, he was born to play a grown man with the intelligence of a boy), and the writers behind Kickin’ It Old Skool (one of whom cut his teeth “writing” for reality TV) make sure to fill their script with only the most obvious jokes and cultural references so that their star’s particular comedic talents will shine brightest and he can work his magic without the risk of causing any audience members to think.
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