I first watched this movie a few months ago and it has only grown on me since.
Finding it on Amazon during one of my diversions from medieval B-flicks, I thought I would give it a go. The description made it sound like a typical, rude postmodern comedy and so I thought it would be a fun way to kill an hour and a half, maybe write a short review.
Since that first watching was months ago and I am only now writing the review for it, obviously the film was a bit more than merely another postmodern comedy. Instead, what I found was something far more enjoyable and, dare I say it, honest to the reality of a dedicated teacher.
Let’s start with the Amazon description:
Principal Ronald Douche (Keegan-Michael Key of “Key and Peele”) runs Truman High School, a school filled with crazy faculty and out of control students. When one teacher, Mr. Carter, wins Teacher of the Year, other schools fight to steal him from Truman High and he is left with the choice: go where he is actually wanted, or stay where he is so desperately, hilariously needed?
First off, this description is misleading. It drags you in thinking that Keegan-Michael Key is the star when he is really, at best, a secondary educator. The description only prizes him because he is the “big” name talent in the movie.
The focus of the movie is overwhelming on Mr. Carter (played by Matt Letstcher). After he wins his teacher of the year award, he receives a job offer at a lobbying firm. Naturally, he must decide if he wants to stay teaching or move half-way across the country to earn much more money. Along the way, there are dramas (such as when a friend of his is accused of assaulting a student) and sentimental moments (when he makes a positive impact on students). Throughout it all, however, the focus is purely on Carter and his dilemma.
This is good. It gives the movie direction and enhances the faux documentary style which the film is shot in. Mr. Carter’s struggle over his career prospects is brought to life; had the film tried to do too much, it would have fallen flat.
More than anything else, what surprised me about this movie was how honest and true it felt to teaching. Yeah, it had its moments of obvious, vulgar comedy meant to placate a mainstream audience (such as the robotics teacher leering at a co-worker’s panties), and it had some cliches in it (a teacher drinking from a flask on the parent-teacher night– hilarious!). But aside from those moments, which make up a limited part of the film, the movie felt like it at least attempted to realistically represent secondary education.
Even though the film is shot as a documentary, it is fake. But as a fictional text, the teachers are represented as real people who face real challenges, not exaggerated silliness like in a lot of other films centered on education. Seeing the different teachers handle, for example, parent-teacher conferences, was fun with a lot of the fun deriving from realism.
Such respect and realism are a constant throughout the movie. Whether it is the small things in how the adults interact with the students, or how the students interact with the adults, everything is imbued with a sense of origin from the real world.
As a short review, that is where I want to end. I will likely be returning to this movie again sometime in the future with a more detailed scholarly approach to it. In the meantime, I was greatly surprised by how such a simple film ended up being such a powerful representation of professionalism.