Compared to Airplane!, that great Golden Eagle of spoof movies, High School High is a fat, lazy, moulting turkey. It gets off the ground, but only just.
It's co-written and co-produced by David Zucker too, so has to be seen as a disaster - Zucker was one third of the team who invented the mockery genre with that trend-setting disaster-movie send-up 17 years ago. Clearly, he needs the help of his old collaborators, who might at least have steered him in the right direction: in spoofing the inner-city-school film (à la Michelle Pfeiffer vehicle Dangerous Minds and, er, very little else), he has stumbled onto unfertile ground. And he complicates matters by belatedly giving us po-faced "messages", which sit uneasily with the comedy.
Not that the funny bits aren't funny. Sometimes, in fact, they're hilarious. The trouble is, HSH runs out of plot, sense and, most of all, jokes long before its 89 meagre minutes are up. It starts promisingly enough, with minor-league director Hart Bochner (beardy coke-head Ellis in Die Hard) briskly setting up Dick's arrival at an educational hell-hole where Uzis are more important than Einstein, and for the first half hour or so, things motor along quite well.
But even at this early stage, many of the gags are screamingly obvious, and others (the scratch-music piss takes and Rebel Without A Cause chicken-run jokes) are well past their use-by dates. Yes, sometimes it hits the mark, especially with its throwaway background stuff -(kids unable to get up the stairs because their jeans hang so low), and its amiable star (Jon Lovitz, he of The Great White Hype). Co-star Tia Carrere, the school secretary who inexplicably yet amusingly falls for Lovitz, makes up for visual deficiencies caused by Pfeiffer's absence, too, while displaying a pleasing line in comic timing. The other "name" actor here - - Louise Fletcher, aka Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest - - flings herself into her topside-of-ham role, making a convincing corrupt school principal, but you never forget she's slumming it.
So, some good stuff, then. But HSH's weaknesses as a "comedy" become most apparent towards the end, when, instead of piling on the titters, it opts to give us "serious" stuff (drug-dealing and Mafia henchmen), and all but leaves the gag-cracking behind.
With its cut-price cast, this is the sort of film that might do the business as an after-the-pub/kebab shop video impulse. But as cinema fare, it's a muddled, half-arsed non-starter.