Recently I told you about how the Warner Archive and similar programs are releasing thousands of previously unavailable movies through the magic of made-to-order DVD-R. They’ve managed to finally release some real gems this way, but it also works for other less valuable minerals like HOT TO TROT, FEDS and CLASS ACT.
CLASS ACT is a Kid ‘n Play comedy vehicle released during the 3 year gap between HOUSE PARTY 2 and HOUSE PARTY 3 (a period known to many as The Struggle). It is not part of the HOUSE PARTY saga, they are playing different characters with different names. In this one Kid is a goodie-two-shoes science genius, Play is a notorious gangster troublemaker, and their identities are mistakenly switched when Kid falls face-first into the principal’s fat secretary’s boobs, causing her to drop their files and switch their headshots.
So then they live each other’s lives. Duncan (Kid) is the nerd, who figures out how to kick field goals using math and menaces everybody just by having the other guy’s reputation. Blade (Play – and no, I’m afraid he’s not supposed to be the Daywalker) is the criminal, who takes gifted classes and gets a smart girlriend (but not smart enough to figure out that he’s dumb). So obviously it’s a timeless tale inspired by Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper, or more likely by every shitty sitcom and Saturday morning cartoon that ever did a plot like that.
(note: there are 5 credited writers. One of them wrote for Who’s The Boss?, Saved By the Bell, Boy Meets World, etc. Two of them wrote for Shirt Tales, Smurfs, Scooby Doos, Snorks etc. One was the head writer for the Kid ‘n Play cartoon.)
Duncan and Blade are frauds (mainly Blade, who sort of forces Duncan into it) but we’ve gotta acknowledge the elephant in the room with the naked emperor riding on it: in actuality everybody is full of shit here. If Rhea Perlman really is a good teacher, if the students really are gifted, if the tough guys that get scared by Blade really are tough guys at all, then all of them should immediately see through the very, very flimsy charade going on here. I mean, they are putting very limited effort and absolutely no skill into passing themselves off as each other. You would have to be a complete moron to believe them for more than ten seconds. When the teacher is talking about entering Blade-who-he-thinks-is-Duncan in the “Knowledge Bowl” game show, he should understand that Blade is literally talking about beating and mutilating the other contestants, not metaphorically. The teacher says “I think we understand each other,” but you see, they don’t understand each other at all. CLASS ACT is a scathing indictment of, you know, society or whatever.
Or maybe just a dumb movie. The early scenes have little kid versions of Duncan and Blade, establishing that they’ve always played these roles. Now we know where Wes Anderson bit his entire style. But the other scenes don’t seem to involve as much effort or attempt at relevance past the month it was released in theaters. They got “U Can’t Touch This” on the soundtrack, they got a wacky montage of Duncan trying on different clothes, a sub-Full Force bully character who wears Zubaz pants and a belly-exposing tank top, that kind of thing. The theme song, with ladies singing “Class act/ work that body, work that body” over and over again plays numerous times throughout the movie.
The humor in this one makes HOUSE PARTY seem real sophisticated. Lots of cartoon sound effects (hit in head = birdie sounds) and boob and butt jokes (face in boobs, spilling drink on boobs, writing phone number on boobs, bumping head into somebody’s butt while crawling through a vent as a “shortcut”). Duncan doesn’t understand slang, so there’s a really awkward attempt at a “Who’s on first?” routine where they confuse the different meanings of fly, stupid/stoopid and def/deaf.
It follows the HOUSE PARTY 2 template too, there’s a “Crack is Whack” charity dance party. In the earlier reviews in this series we talked about standup comedians like Robin Harris and Martin Lawrence, who came out of The Comedy Act Theater, being used in these movies. This one went to the white comedy clubs and got Pauly Shore as host of the charity dance, doing his whole Pauly Shore thing. I never did understand what that was supposed to be all about. I know he got his start because his mom owned that place The Comedy Store, but it couldn’t have all been friends of his mom going to see the movies, could it? I don’t know, but if anybody ever meets her please ask her to explain what the joke was supposed to be.
Anyway in that sense it’s like a HOUSE PARTY movie, but it’s also kind of like a Scooby-Doo episode. No shit, they end up at a wax museum hiding by pretending to be the dummies. They hide next to Satchmo.
The poster for this movie showed the title shaved on the back of Kid’s head, with his fade depicted at about 250% of its previous maximum size. This is not an accurate depiction of his hair height or volume, but more importantly it ignores this movie’s historic place as the end of the hair. During the course of the story Blade shaves Duncan’s hair and twists it into dreadlocks, because he knows that goofball do won’t fit his reputation. No, it isn’t done on camera. To avoid mass walkouts and potential rioting if this bomb dropped part way through the movie they have a wraparound where Kid is in a holding cell (where presumably he’s performed a rap to avoid getting raped, like in HOUSE PARTY) telling the story, so he already has the shorter hair right at the beginning.
I feel bad for Kid on the whole hair issue. I mean he was in his 20s, he was being a goofball with that hairdo, he didn’t know he was gonna get famous and be known mainly for that. Then I’m sure he had to sit on it and have meetings with his management and record label and everybody before he cut it. Or if not he must’ve had a FELICITY situation, remember, they used to have that show? I believe I read somewhere that the gal was known for her long curly hair and after she decided to cut it shorter the network and media blamed anything that went wrong with the show on her hair. They move it to a different time slot, the ratings go down, obviously it was the hair’s fault. I never understood why the public who had watched the show were comfortable being characterized as nitwits who watch a TV show just to look at some hair blowing around.
Well, poor Kid is in that situation too. You could argue that the tapering off of Kid ‘n Play’s rap career was caused by the change in hair, or you could argue that the change in hair was caused by the same cultural changes that actually caused the tapering off of the career. I bet it’s the latter but you can’t help but wonder if it’s the first one, and in his head he probly had doubts too. Am I nothing but a hairstyle? Was that all they liked about me? I mean, how did he feel looking at that poster the first time? You gotta feel a little inadequate next to that, I think.
Another thing that’s inaccurate about the poster is it shows them watching a naked lady, like it’s a PORKY’S movie. I don’t remember nothin like that happening. It’s a PG-13 movie, and there’s a part where somebody says “go touch yourself” like it was dubbed for TV.
The director is Randall Miller, who in recent years directed MARILYN HOTCHKISS’ BALLROOM DANCING & CHARM SCHOOL, NOBEL SON and BOTTLE SHOCK, all of which went over pretty well at the Seattle International Film Festival if I remember right. But he got his start with CLASS ACT starring Kid ‘n Play, and HOUSEGUEST starring Sinbad, and THE SIXTH MAN starring Marlon Wayans.
This is a shitty movie, and probly less interesting-shitty than DISORDERLIES. But I guess it does take advantage of the somewhat unique chemistry of this particular rap duo. I mean, how many rap duos were there back then? EPMD, Salt ‘n Pepa, maybe you could count Eric B and Rakim. Most of them didn’t have this same dynamic where the two are supposed to be opposites. Since Kid was always portrayed as the nice guy and Play as the womanizer they took advantage of that and tried to make a comedy team out of them.
It got me thinking – what if it was CLASS ACT starring Chuck D as Duncan and Flavor Flav as Blade? I know Chuck would’ve been in his early 30s, but so were Full Force in the first HOUSE PARTY. So he could play a high school student, right?
Or what about this: DEAD RINGERS starring Kid ‘n Play as the twin gynecologists. Yeah, you’d have to suspend some disbelief that they pass off for each other, but it would really emphasize the differences between the two brothers. Think about it, Cronenberg. It could work.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.