The notion of comedy presupposes several conditions, not least of which is actual humor. But Jamie Kennedy’s sole attempt at evoking comedy involves tossing a bag of flaming poo at his audience and then pointing and laughing. As producer of his latest starring vehicle, Kickin’ It Old Skool, Kennedy has assembled a cast wearing parachute pants and led them in the acting out of juvenile impulses as thirtysomethings, and this is just supposed to be funny, as if to yell, “Laugh, goddammit!”
By now, most of us are painfully aware that Kennedy has fallen long and hard since his promising performances in Scream and Romeo + Juliet. Yet he seems hell-bent on convincing audiences that he is a comedian in the same manner that Jim Carrey insists on proving that dramatic roles are his strong suit. These dual instances of denial are particularly ironic because Kennedy took over where Carrey left off in Son of the Mask. Of course, Carrey’s problem is that he wants to be taken seriously as a dramatic actor after he found a taste of success in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but ultimately, he’s a comedian who truly belongs in movies like Liar Liar, where he can put his bare ass away and still use his brilliant physical comedy to critique society’s downpour of pseudo-truths and disinformation. Likewise, Kennedy perfectly portrayed the intensity of Baz Luhrmann’s modified Sampson in Romeo + Juliet as well as the go-to source of movie-geek knowledge, Randy Meeks, in the Scream trilogy. Kennedy’s characters were sources of sanity in their respective worlds gone mad, and his ability to play characters that can self-deconstruct a movie within its confines did not go unnoticed, except by Kennedy himself.
Kickin’ It Old Skool fashions itself as a fish-out-of-water sort of comedy where the main character finds himself seemingly transported 20 years into the future. The film opens in 1986. Justin Shumacher is a pre-teen breakdancer who injures his head in a talent show and subsequently falls into a coma. Jumping ahead to 2006, Justin’s parents are about to pull the plug. As that bitch called fate would have it, Justin is miraculously awakened by the strains of Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit” calling from a passerby’s Walkman. Unfortunately, Justin is now a 12-year-old in a 30ish body, and his parents are about to go bankrupt from the costs incurred from keeping their boy alive for two decades. To avoid these atrocities, mom and dad really should have pulled that plug 10 years prior. This would have been a move of cinematic genius compared to what essentially amounts to two hours of hypercolor hell.
In his childlike way, Justin decides to help out his parents the only way he can, by recreating the surroundings of that momentous talent show. Under his guidance, his old group, the Funky Fresh Boyz, signs up for a dance contest with a $100,000 prize. The entire movie revolves around watching four out-of-shape idiots perfecting their breakdancing moves and supposedly reattaining their former prowess. In addition, Justin takes time out to play with Legos and Smurfs, just so the audience doesn’t forget what this movie is supposed to remind us of. Another character aspires to reinvent the classic toys of the 1980s with such gems as the “Jewbix cube,” which contains crude drawings of dreidels, yarmulkes, and circumcised penises.
Really, that’s all this film is — a perpetual assault of ’80s references and stereotypes with no purpose. The other members of the Funky Fresh Boyz are the really fat guy (Aris Alvarado), the Asian guy (Bobby Lee), and the stereotypical black guy (Miguel A. Núñez Jr.). There is no reason for these caricatures to exist except for them to constantly laugh and point at each other for being hugely fat, resembling Long Duk Dong of Sixteen Candles, or residing in the ghetto with a baby-making machine of a girlfriend to match, respectively. Not one iota of illumination occurs concerning human nature or culture, which is something that Borat did so well as a successful fish-out-of-water film.
It also bears mentioning that delayed puberty is also, apparently, hilarious. Justin’s love interest from childhood, Jen (Maria Menounos), is now engaged to his former archrival in the luminous realm of breakdancing. Surely, one can guess the awkwardness of that romantic tension, especially since Justin’s friends give him pointers by dressing the fat guy up with a wig and bra. And since the film just cannot stop piling on the horrible, howzabout some cameos by the likes of Emmanuel Lewis, Alan Ruck, and Erik Estrada? And then there’s the pièce de résistance: David Hasselhoff and his piece of crap car from “Knight Rider.”
To call this film horrible would be to insult all comedic films that are horrible despite containing the requisite elements. At least bad jokes include terrible punchlines, but Kickin’ It Old Skool doesn’t even make the connection to completed jokes. Kennedy, for his part, manages to obliterate any potential coolness of the synth-pop era by delivering his lines in the most embarrassing manner without any notion of style or timing.
As a final nail in Sonny Crockett’s coffin, no conceivable target audience exists for this film. Teenage boys may initially flock for the promise of Maria Menounos’ cleavage, but the constant layering of obscure 1980s references will fail to register upon those who weren’t even alive when MTV showed music videos. Those old enough for such memories certainly won’t appreciate the vomit, doody, and constant urination jokes volleyed throughout. Perhaps a few people would go for this film — those who want to see Jamie Kennedy’s naked ass coupled with a port-wine birthmark — for the mere sake of looking at them. And to those people, I say: You can have it.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and tries to avoid reality at all costs. She also insults pop culture daily at agentbedhead.com.Please, Hassel the Hoff
Film | April 27, 2007 | Comments ()