Image courtesy of www.impawards.com
Nick Cannon……….Tracy Stokes
Roselyn Sanchez……….Karen Lopez
Shawn Ashmore……….Rob Donovan
Angelo Spizzirri……….David Boscoe
When Eddie Murphy become a worldwide superstar at the tender age of 23 with 1984’s Beverly Hills Cop he had already been a top-notch comedian at 19 on Saturday Night Live and scored a box office hit opposite Nick Nolte in 48 Hrs. After having become a household name so early in his career, it’s easy to see why people would try and duplicate that sort of early success with a young person. And the comparisons to Murphy are pretty easy to make, at least superficially, with Nick Cannon.
Cannon was on an ensemble television show (Nickelodeon mainstay All That), had a couple modestly successful teen comedies (Drumline and Love Don’t Cost A Thing) and is a young, funny and good-looking guy. While he hasn’t had the sort of fame and notoriety Murphy had at the same age, it’s easy to think that you can put the same sort of guy and catch lightning in a bottle all over again. Now this comparison would be much easier to make if Underclassman featured a tighter script, more natural dialogue and Eddie Murphy at age 23.
Cannon may be a good comedian in many situations, but being Tracy Stokes should be much easier than it turns out. Cannon in real life is articulate and intelligent to the point where his dialogue is a near self-parody. Cannon has showed that when he isn’t saddled with a poor character, or at least one that is tailored more towards the kind of person he is. He has a lot of natural charisma and presence available that isn’t used to its fullest in Underclassman, mainly due to the character he plays.
Tracy is supposed to be street smart and hip, Axel Foley meshed with 50 cent, and it’s the wrong type of character for Cannon. He’s just too suburban and polished for the role and isn’t given the creative ability to incorporate it; Marcos Siega seems to want Cannon to come across as a hustler with a badge when it’s the absolute worst light he can be given. Cannon struggles with the lazy dialogue he’s given. He sounds about as authentic using “street” dialogue as your average Midwestern farmer’s son. Cannon seems to be aching to be able to improvise and adapting the character to his strengths as an actor like Murphy did but the script leaves him no room to do anything to enhance it.
In a movie that emulates another that is famous for its improvisation and a disregard to formula while embracing the principles of the genre, Underclassman is shockingly devoid of anything wholly original or even mildly entertaining. There is no emulation or alteration of scenes and sequences from better movies; there’s wholesale theft. Plot points and action scenes are lifted from better movies than this including the aforementioned Beverly Hills Cop as well as Point Break, The Fast and the Furious, Never Been Kissed and the Lethal Weapon series.