Contrary to popular belief, Judge David Johnson tells us this is not the senior citizens installment of "Girls Gone Wild."
Four score and seven beers ago…They came. They saw. They passed out.
Another entry from the National Lampoon label. Is Senior Trip a throwback to the brand's heyday of Vacation and Animal House, or is the movie representative of the dreck we're used to these days?
Facts of the Case
Welcome to Token High (actually, it's Fairmount High), where all the students are shallow knock-offs of accepted teen-movie caricatures. Leading off is Token Cool Guy/Troublemaker Dags (Jeremy Renner, S.W.A.T.) and Token Clueless Principal Todd Moss (Matt Frewer, Max Headroom), bolstered by a load of more stereotypes: Token Pothead, Token Slut, Token Nerd, Token Minority, Token Uptight Jerk, Token Funny Fat Guy, and Token Smart Girl/Object-of-Cool-Guy's-Affection.
This representative few are renowned for their dismissal of authority and drunkenness, but when they go too far and have a Senior Skip Day party at the principal's house, they soon land themselves in all-day weekend detention. While languishing under the suspicious eye of Principal Moss, Token Smart Girl writes a letter to the President of the United Sates, griping about the state of education.
Miraculously, the President—labeled a "liberal wuss" by John Lerman, The Evil Republican Senator—takes the letter to heart, and invites the students to D.C. to celebrate the passage of his education reform bill.
Senator Lerman, visits the Fairmount students, and upon realizing that they're nothing more than an assemblage of outcasts and jackasses, hatches a diabolical scheme to bring shame to the president: he'll parade these freaks in front of the cameras, side-by-side with the President and destroy the education reform bill. Why does he do this? Because he's evil…
So the students pile into a bus, and head for the Capital. On the way, they manage to sneak some malt liquor on board under the nose of the chaperones, lock the principal in the bathroom, crash the bus, and evade the strange pursuits of Trekkie-psycho Travis (Kevin McDonald, Kids in the Hall.)
The final third of the movie deals with the kids in DC, their escapades in a cheap S&M-themed hotel, and their reaction to the news they're being used by John Lerman, The Evil Republican Senator, all culminating in a laughably forced ending cum wannabe commentary on the state of the education system.
Hey I love a good teen movie as much as the next guy, but when films recycle the same worn-out, clichéd characters outing after outing, it gets pretty frickin' tedious. I initially had some hopes that Senior Trip would escape the tired mold formed by the legions of previous teen movies, but those hopes were soon dashed faster than Dustin Diamond's career after Celebrity Boxing.
Dags is a typical self-assured popular dude, though he initially starts out as an aloof goofball. I had thought "Hmmm, here's an interesting take on the teen movie protagonist," but he soon dove into the typical Zack-Morris-with-beer-and-libido schtick we've seen in every other high school movie. Token Smart Girl plays the intellectual prude before eventually falling prey to Dags' charming wiles, another "we've seen this before" moment. Matt Frewer as Principal Ross channels the spirit of Principal Rooney from Ferris Bueller's Day Off and apes the uptight administrator throughout the whole movie, particularly in the sequence that finds him locked in the bathroom with an overflowing toilet.
The shallowness of the characters left the movie flat. I felt as if the filmmakers were saying: "Look, laugh at this guy because he's fat!" or "Ha, see this girl is a slut and wants to have sex with everyone! Funny, eh?" or "Gee whiz this young fella sure does do a lot of drugs! That's comic gold! Why aren't you laughing?!"
Also detrimental to the film is how long it takes the trip itself to get rolling. The kids don't even set foot on the bus until a third of the way through the movie. This leaves little time for much tomfoolery on the actual trip, and makes the whole beginning of the film look a lot like filler.
Maybe all of this could be overlooked had the movie been funny. Guess what, it wasn't. All in all, another disappointing installment in the National Lampoon reliquary.
New Line did put together an impressive presentation, however. There are no bonus materials except for a handful of trailers, but the disc shines in the audio/visual department. The widescreen transfer is nifty, sharp, and crisp and both a Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS tracks accompany (odd, sure for a comedy, but digital is digital and it's appreciated.) The movie didn't deserve such a special treatment if you ask me.
Have you heard? National Lampoon is now 99% laugh-free!
Put this one on the bus and drive it off a cliff. Court adjourned.
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