18 August 2009

Listless Tuesdays: Top 5 Back to School Movies

Its about that time.

5. The Karate Kid-

Back to school has everything to do with new. Fitting into a new place with new people one step closer to the real world. Very few movies tap into that feeling like The Karate Kid. Bullies, parents that don't understand, its all there in this one. Unfortunately, this one has too many moments of extreme ridiculousness. My personal favorite comes after the principle character has had his bike stolen and believes that martial arts is his only method of recourse. In this moment of crisis the karate kid shrieks to his mother his deepest wish, "I need to know karate!!!!"

4. The School of Rock-

Maybe it's a stretch, but this one perfectly compliments Karate Kid. Besides the period of change, back to school also has a lot to with challenges and the possibility of becoming a new and exciting person. School of Rock incorporates this theme to its zenith from the perspective of the rock and roll kids in the class and also from Jack Black in his roll as the reformed teacher making good.

3. Lucas-

I will be the first to say that I don't really understand the direction that David Seltzer was going with this one. Lucas, a freshman without many social skills, is hardly lovable. He stalks that poor girl. You just can't forget about him though because he is such a loser. This film only does two things well. First, it does a great job of portraying multiple sides of the same character types. Jeremy Piven and Charlie Sheen are both football players, but they treat Lucas in entirely different ways. This film also provides one of the greatest examples of emotional manipulation. The viewer has just sat in horror while the 100 lb. title character without his helmet is mauled in a high school football game. Immediately after, a slow clap is raised for this same character by Charlie Sheen as Lucas pulls a letter jacket out of his locker. In this way it is a perfect high school movie, depicting the extremes of what a person is willing to give up in order to achieve status among peers.

2. Back To School-

First of all , the comedy is great, these jokes all have a lot of setup, and the payoff is usually worth it. Rodney Dangerfield leads the way in this one with his usual brand of "If your so smart how come you ain't rich?" type of humor, but it is usual college environment seen from the perspective of a guy who, unlike Socrates, is wise because he does know. Two scenes really make this one- the scene with the yelling history teacher, and the stuff with Kurt Vonnegut, "Hey Kurt, can you read lips?". Really an underrated film in the entire scope of 80's comedies and obviously the piece upon which Van Wilder was modeled.

1. Mean Girls-

This one covers all of the same issues as Karate Kid, but instead of karate, screams about needing makeup and boyfriends. All joking aside, Mean Girls engages all of the ingredients for back to school films that are mentioned in the other films on this list. Its funny and topical, while both the students and the teachers play interesting characters. The troubles of fitting in, and the possibilities/challenges are given relatively equal import. Maybe not a classic in the Criterion Collection mold, but nonetheless, it tells a humorous story that people will remember.

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