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Anchor Bay Entertainment presents
“Jasper, buddy, you know the drill. Go walk the railroad tracks until lunch.”
DVD ReviewDirect-to-Video comedies continue to hit DVD shelves, week after week, with casts that sport at least one semi-big name actor. More often than not, there’s a reason these movies don’t get a chance in theaters, as they’re either unfunny, with a horribly mismatched cast, or they’re too smart and ambitious for mainstream moviegoers. The latest of these, Lower Learning, is, sadly, one of the former, with a well-known group of actors gracing the busy DVD cover, trying to coax audiences into believing that their presence alone makes this worth a look. Anchor Bay is responsible for this particular effort, and, fortunately, the quality of the disc itself is better than expected.
At Geraldine Ferraro Elementary School, there’s far more drinking and drug use going on than any actual learning. Unfortunately, it’s the faculty that’s setting the horrible examples for this particular group of kids. The root of the problem is Principal Billings (Rob Corddry), who has a group of young students on his payroll, whom he uses to handle any and all illegal packages and bribes that come his way. With other teachers like Laura (Monica Potter) and Jesse (Will Sasso) being nearly as dysfunctional as Billings, it’s up to Vice-Principal Tom Willoman (Jason Biggs) to do what he can to save the school. Threatening to shut the whole operation down is District Inspector Rebecca Seabrook (Eva Longoria Parker), but with her, Tom might find more than a means to save his job.
It appears that director Mark Lafferty is trying to appeal to the Superbad crowd by being as crude as possible. Unfortunately for Lafferty, what he’s lacking and what that hit Judd Apatow (Knocked Up) movie had was plenty of laughs. The proceedings in Lower Learning are plenty crude, but there wasn’t a single laugh-out-loud moment. It seems Lafferty is too concerned with trying to wow us, keeping us busy with, “Oh my gosh, that teacher is doing illegal drugs!,” or, “How can that teacher use that kind of language in class?!” moments as a way to distract the audience from the realization that they haven’t laughed once.
Biggs is doing his best Matthew Broderick in Election impression here, even sounding eerily similar to Mr. Sarah Jessica Parker on numerous occasions. Biggs is usually, at worst, charming, but he just seems to be going through the motions here, looking as disinterested in the material as anyone who has the displeasure of watching it is sure to be. Mrs. Longoria Parker continues to prove that she should never stray too far from her comfy role on Desperate Housewives and the lovely Monica Potter has nothing much to do other than slump at her teacher’s desk looking like she just lost her best friend. The real shame lies in Corddry, who simply has never been even remotely funny since he left television. He was one of the best anchors on The Daily Show, blending wit and physical comedy to make a name for himself. Since making the jump to movies, the only time he’s been worth checking out was in a serious supporting role in Oliver Stone’s W. Perhaps Corddry will find his way eventually, but headlining junk like this is a step in the wrong direction.
Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: D+
Image Transfer Review: The video is presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen, and it looks quite good, considering the lack of a theatrical release for the film. Images are sharp and detailed throughout, with bright, vibrant colors and accurate flesh tones sprucing up the visuals. Contrast and shadow levels are consistent, and there’s very little in the way of dirt, grain, or other blemishes.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is a typical comedy soundtrack, focusing heavily on delivering crystal clear dialogue. The surrounds do come to life to accommodate a decent soundtrack, but nearly the entire mix stays up front and is problem-free.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Grand
10 Deleted Scenes
Packaging: Keep Case
Extras Review: The extras begin with The ABC’s of Lower Learning: Behind the Scenes. This 13-minute piece is a typical EPK featurette that focuses on the ins and outs of the production, offering some nice anecdotes along the way.
There’s also 10 deleted scenes that run a total of 26 minutes, and are worth a look, while we also get the trailer for Lower Learning.
Extras Grade: C
Final CommentsIf the horrible artwork on the DVD cover doesn’t keep you away from the direct-to-DVD release, Lower Learning, hopefully the knowledge that you won’t laugh much, if at all, will. Despite a trio of semi-big names headlining the cast, this is a complete waste of time. Anchor Bay’s DVD is a solid effort though, thanks to above average audio and video, and a few extras as well.
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