2008, NR, 89 min. Directed by Michael Mayer. Starring Shannon Lucio, Riley Smith, Chris Marquette, Chris Lowell, Adam Arkin, Aimee Garcia, Glynnis O'Connor, Huey Lewis.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., May 2, 2008

This high school bank-heist caper opens with a voiceover monologue that's typical of the meaningless blather that's yet to come. One of the speech's hollow lines resonates: "By senior year in high school, you either know what you want to do in life, or you don’t." That sounds good but sums up little, and instead of using the line to prompt some kind of soul search – à la Richard Dreyfuss in American Graffiti – it kicks off a musing-free plot about four seniors who rob a bank during the cover of their graduation ceremony in order to get the money to pay for a life-prolonging bone-marrow transplant for one student's mom. Bad deed, good cause: If that's the film's moral, then the film's ultimate finale completely contradicts that message. The script by D. Cory Turner is muddy at best, and some of the choices made by first-time feature director Mayer further cloud the scenario. Often the viewer is left grasping for a nonexistent conduit or line of explanatory dialogue that might help smooth over some unnecessarily rough transitions. Then, once the heist occurs, there are numerous overlooked and unquestioned details that suffuse the entire movie with the patent air of improbability. The film stars a quartet of young TV thesps: Lucio (The OC), Marquette (Joan of Arcadia, Alpha Dog), Lowell (Veronica Mars, Private Practice), and Smith (Freaks and Geeks). All perform quite well, although they're all a bit worn to be playing high schoolers. Arkin also gets a fair amount of screen time as both the bank president and one student's dad; however, anyone coming in order to see Lewis onscreen should be advised that he appears in only one short scene. Graduation is another in Landmark Dobie Theatre's recent trend toward presenting theatrical runs of small indie films due for DVD release in the week after leaving the theatre. (See The First Saturday in May, Zombie Strippers, and Backseat for recent examples.) Graduation opens this Friday exclusively in Austin, Seattle, San Francisco, Berkeley, and Minneapolis; it's set for DVD release on May 13.

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Graduation, Michael Mayer, Shannon Lucio, Riley Smith, Chris Marquette, Chris Lowell, Adam Arkin, Aimee Garcia, Glynnis O'Connor, Huey Lewis

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