While it's probably true that movies haven't changed that much over the years - notwithstanding special effects and such - the particular styles have. That's what makes certain films from decades ago fun to watch (for the nostalgia or sheer goofiness factor) and others decidedly more painful (due to politically incorrect material or that which no longer seems cool anymore).
But when filmmakers craft a contemporary film that looks, feels and sounds like an effort from a bygone era - and isn't a parody, bit of homage or simply set in that time - you have to wonder what they were thinking.
That will likely be the reaction to "Underclassman," an action-laced cop comedy flick that's straight from the 1980s, an era when Hollywood cranked out such films by the dozens. You know, they were the ones with the brash young troublemaker cop who bucked the system, riled his boss, made fun of the older cops (who end up partnering with him) and wisecracked while dealing with the villains.
I don't know if the likes of "Beverly Hills Cop" started the trend or simply popularized it, but its star certainly epitomized that type of sub-genre offering. Of course, Eddie Murphy got too old to play that role and thus handed it off to the likes of Will Smith and others who've now done the same to Nick Cannon.
The former star of TV's "All That" as well the big screen music drama "Drumline" now gets his first "big" movie role, but it's too bad the vehicle's all rusty and sputters about. Straight from the '80s vault of bad comedy-action hybrids, the film has Cannon doing his best to impersonate a combination of Murphy and Smith.
Alas, the rising star lacks the comedic timing of his predecessors. And while he has something of an onscreen presence, he doesn't come close to matching his predecessors in terms of charm. And that's exactly the commodity - along with a decent, rather than derivative script - that's so desperately needed to make one overlook the film's various flaws.
And the biggest and most apparent of them is that we've seen this sort of story, its various elements and all of the characters countless times before. Truth be told, it feels like all of the above was dumped into a blender (or a computer sorting program), swirled together, and the result came out as a muddled offering that's nothing more than the bland average of those various parts.
The second - and equally debilitating - matter is that neither the story nor the characters are remotely engaging or interesting. Simply put, we don't care about the protagonist and his well-being, or whether or not he succeeds at his various goals.
Then there's the fact that director Marcos Siega ("Pretty Persuasion") and screenwriters David Wagner & Brent Goldberg ("The Girl Next Door," "My Baby's Daddy") can't seem to make up their minds about what sort of film they're making and to who it's supposed to play. It's certainly too juvenile for adult audiences (but at the same time doesn't push its crude humor far enough into R-rated territory to appease those who like that), while it's decidedly too adult for younger viewers (for a number of reasons). The result is an odd mix that never establishes or settles on the tone or type of film it wants to and/or should be.
With Cannon (who also served as one of the producers which may explain the following) seemingly given free reign to do whatever he liked, the rest of the cast is left without any hope, although they should have known that after reading the script and signing on the dotted line. None is particularly remarkable beyond the fact that Hugh Bonneville ("Asylum," "Iris") makes for a terrible villain and Roselyn Sanchez ("Chasing Papi," "Basic"), no matter how pretty she might be, won't likely ever be clearing mantle space for any serious acting awards.
Bland, flat, not particularly funny and forced more often than not, this "Underclassman" should have been held back until some major fine tuning might have made it ready to graduate from the studio. Leave this one behind - like back in the '80s where it belongs.