Sony // 2007 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // August 28th, 2007
He had to create a hero to become a hero.
This made-for-Nickelodeon movie proves that kids' entertainment doesn't need to be stupid and superficial.
Nolan Byrd (Devon Wekheiser, Ned's Declassfied) is a nondescript kid surviving the rigors of school. Constantly tormented by abrasive school bully Bubba Bixby (Andrew Caldwell), Nolan finds refuge in his social studies class, taught by cool teacher extraordinaire Mr. Green (Tim Meadows), and his infatuation with long-time crush, Isabel (Francia Raisa).
But Bubba's harassment becomes too much to bear, so Nolan forges an online alter-ego, "Shredderman." Using the Shredderman Web site he created, Nolan posts covert video he's taken of Bubba's many school infractions as well as any other injustices his prying lens may discover.
Thanks, everyone involved with making Shredderman Rules. Thanks for not insulting the intelligence of our teens by showing the world that there is a place for witty movies geared toward adolescents. Wow, it's almost like kids aren't stupid! This is a great little movie and an object lesson in how to craft an authentically funny straight-to-TV comedy feature. And forget the "for teenagers" caveat. Shredderman Rules is a straight-up good movie in general.
Much of the credit lies with the go-to guys, writer Russell Marcus and director Savage Steve Holland. Marcus has crafted a clever script, peppered with funny one-liners that shows surprising restraint in ladling on the toilet humor (though there is indeed a fart joke and there are some raw sewage scenes, but I think filmmakers are contractually obliged by Nickelodeon to include these gags). The jokes work because they're funny and because they're delivered by talented actors. The premise of a Web-based superhero is pretty cool as well, and the set-up allows Marcus to generate some funny sight gags; my favorite, I'm almost embarrassed to admit, is the lunchroom chef clipping his toenails in a vat of soup. Holland supplements the strong writing with solid directing that both accentuates the frenetic pacing these "young adult" movies go for and gives the actors a chance to do their thing.
Speaking of which, props to this cast of teens who bring enthusiasm and charisma to their roles. The standout is Werkheiser, who transplants and tweaks his Ned character from his popular TV show to create a likable, self-deprecating hero. His backup crew holds their own, with an honorable mention to Caldwell for making his school bully more than a one-dimensional jackass and injecting the thankless role with some personality. Then again, running around shoving people and issuing atomic wedgies doesn't sound thankless to me. For the grown-ups, Tim Meadows stands out as the dry-witted social studies teacher and, best of all, he doesn't even look bored. Dave Coulier reins in the Popeye impressions as Nolan's likable, yet obtuse, father.
I think what I liked most about this feature is its self-awareness. The filmmakers skirt genre clichés by keeping their characters quirky and the plot elements fresh. Yes some of the bigger narrative threads are sewn up nicely, but not all of them. For example, Bubba never quite learns his lesson and there's a great end scene that twists this particular cliché. Condescending, pretentious blather and watered-down, saccharine life lessons are refreshingly absent, leaving in place a fun, original film that's twice as entertaining as some recent kids-oriented, big-studio theatrical releases I've seen. Highly recommended.
Sony's served up a decent DVD as well. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer looks good and the 5.0 Surround track complements the clean picture quality well. Extras include a short but lively making-of featurette, a blooper reel, a music video, and some trailers.
Funny and fresh, Shredderman Rules, well, rules.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Behind the Scenes
* Blooper Reel
* Music Video
* Official Site