Kickin' It Old Skool (United States, 2007)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

I hope Jamie Kennedy has a huge fan base because I can't see anyone else paying hard-earned money to sit through this. Perhaps my expectations are too high, but when I go to see something billed as a "comedy," I don't expect to have to wait until the final caption before the closing credits for there to be something worth even a feeble laugh. It's not that the art of making movie comedies is dead - the recent Hot Fuzz and the upcoming Knocked Up are proof of that - but that filmmakers have become lazy and contemptuous of their audiences. There's a belief that viewers will laugh at anything because it's supposed to be funny, regardless of whether or not it actually is. Kickin' It Old Skool is the latest of these movies. The ineptitude of the movie's drama is matched only by the failure of its humor.

The jokes cover the range from mildly off-color to in full bad taste, hitting such diverse topics as pedophilia and David Hasselhoff. The scene in which lessons are imparted about how to grope a woman's breasts feels like it was written by teenage boys (or at least adults who never grew out of adolescence). There's also the obligatory obsession with bodily fluids and functions. What would a movie like this be without vomit, urine, and guys rubbing their crotches with women's tee-shirts? And, in another move that is becoming increasingly standard in PG-13 comedies, we are graced with the sight of a man's bare buttocks. All of this, and no laughs. One might think the law of averages would demand that the filmmakers stumble upon something funny by accident, but that isn't the case.

The premise has the potential to be amusing - after all, it involves one of the most interesting of fish-out-of-water variants: the child trapped in an adult body. Rip Van Winkle meets Big. Or at least that's what first-time director Harvey Glazer would have us believe. The script neuters the idea and reduces it to a string of missed opportunities and poorly timed sitcom gags. It comes as no surprise to learn that the three screenwriters are primarily known for their involvement in television shows. None has a recognizable movie credit on his resume.

Kickin' It Old Skool opens with a prologue set in 1986 in which 12-year old breakdancer Justin (Jamie Kennedy) suffers an accident that leaves him in a coma. Twenty years later, he awakens in his hospital bed to find that life has passed him by. Soon, he's reconnecting to the world: his parents, Marty (Christopher McDonald) and Sylvia (Debra Jo Rupp); his friends and former dancing compatriots, Darnell (Miguel A. Nunez Jr.), Aki (Bobby Lee), and Hector (Aris Alvarado); and the girl he had a crush on, Jen (Maria Menounos). Jen, unfortunately, is engaged to Justin's junior high nemesis, Kip (Michael Rosenbaum). Things play out as expected with Justin winning back Jen (and catching his first glimpse of female flesh), embarrassing Kip, and proving himself in a big breakdancing contest.

The acting is bottom drawer. Jamie Kennedy comes across as an Adam Sandler wannabe. Not only is his comic timing consistently off, but his "dramatic" work is so bad that he's likely to get more laughs for that than for when he's trying to be funny. The only thing Maria Menounos has going for her is that she's pretty. Based on this performance, she's not likely to get a call from Martin Scorsese any time soon. Michael Rosenbaum creates one of the weakest villains in the many movies of this sort - he's so weak that it's impossible to generate any dislike for him. In his self-parodying cameo, David Hasselhoff shows more charisma than the rest of the cast put together. (By the way, it's long past the point where Hasselhoff lampooning himself is of any interest. It's the last resort of a filmmaker who is grasping for anything.)

Director Glazer clearly wants us to think Big as we watch Kickin' It Old Skool. That's actually a mistake because the moment anyone makes the connection, they'll realize how truly awful this motion picture is. Big was fun; it had heart. Kickin' It Old Skool is a trial; it has vomit. Compared to what's on the screen here, even the horrible Kirk Cameron/Dudley Moore horror, Like Father Like Son, seems like a pleasant diversion. Kickin' It Old Skool belongs to a comedy subgenre I refer to as "generic unwatchable movies" - the kind of films worth skipping past if channel surfing at 2 am on a Saturday morning. Aside from a few nice breakdancing moves, this film has nothing to offer anyone except a chance to throw away time and money on a project deserving of neither.

Kickin' It Old Skool (United States, 2007)

Run Time: 1:47
U.S. Release Date: 2007-04-27
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Profanity, Sexual Situations, Nudity)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1