Class Act is to The Prince and the Pauper as Romeo + Juliet is to, well, Romeo and Juliet. But whereas the latter film was targeted at the MTV/early digital generation, Class Act, released only four years prior, was for a Generation X audience in a very, very weird state of post-Reagan years flux when Air Jordans ruled the streets, 2 Live Crew domintated the airwaves and the Ford Taurus was the wave of the future. Back then I believe the kids would call this flick the dopest, most legit, fly movie to hit theaters since Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what spewed forth from the minds of Hollywood after winning the Cold War.
Class Act may not have been the commercial success its studio had hoped for ($13 million at the box office), but damn does it stand as an astoundingly complete time capsule to these simpler, more innocent times. The movie is a post- House Party vehicle for the hip hop/comedy duo Kid n' Play and acts as a sort of denouement for the pair whose wave of popularity had reached its peak and just then started to roll back into the breakers. Their deft use of street slang and frequent spastic dance sequences mixed with a mostly clean comedy plot must have reassured uptight middle-class Americans that not all inner city black people were crack-huffing, priest murdering psychopaths. I don't really know, I was only twelve when this hit theaters, but I've heard worse educated guesses.
Kid, the one with the skyscraper hair) and Blade Brown ( Play, the allegedly "thuggish"-looking one) both imprisoned, with the former giving the lowdown on why they're there to the guard. I love what this connotes: it means the entire movie is just a feature-length flashback sequence with built-in plot holes, since it's impossible for Duncan to be telling the guard what Blade was doing when the two weren't together. Maybe they're not plot holes at all and the screenwriter is implying that either 1) Duncan is an omniscient diety or 2) he and Blade are sharing very detailed diaries. But I digress. Duncan, an overachieving senior with a GPA above 4.0, is spurned by “Hartford” University's matriculation committee who tells him he needs to pass phys ed—a priority for the Ivy League, I'm sure—before they'll admit him. He enrolls in the local public high school where his record is accidentally switched with Blade's who, as his name might imply, is a prison-hardened tough whose name inspires fear in the men and lust in the ladies. This puts both of them in the respective fish-out-of-water situations that are the fuel turning this movie's wheezing engine of humor.
To call Class Act's plot contrived would be as much an understatement now as it was in 1992, but the point at which you just stop caring comes pretty quickly. For me it was while the Pinderhughes family was having their little introduction/exposition dinner at their flawless suburban home and Duncan explains to his disapproving father that his Marge Simpson-in-the-hood hairstyle is just his way of expressing himself...aerodynamically. I loved this scene for both the over-the-top depiction of this black family that wants so badly to be white you just know dad has his country club application all filled out and waiting for the right moment to be sent off, and for Kid poking fun at his real-life persona, confirming that at least one of this movie's stars wasn't taking it seriously at all. For the sake of pure camp I can't disagree with that stance at all.
Part of the fun in watching Duncan and Blade bumble through each other's lives is seeing how the gravity well of their respective positions at opposite poles of life pull in such a cliched array of friends and foes: there's Rhea Perlman as the lonely teacher hot for student; Doug E. Doug as the obsequious good-natured henchman, Popsicle; and my favorite, prolific TV character actor Lamont Johnson as Wedge (not that one), the school's requisite yogurt-for-brains badass bully whose pink muscle shirt fits so tightly it looks more like a sports bra. At least he's got steady work in Hollywood now—plenty of paths to Tinseltown lead to the casting couch, but for Johnson his was paved merely with ill-fitting women's undergarments.
Pauly Shore. Call me ignorant, but I consider Pauly Shore leading an anti-drug rally about as plausible as a pimp organizing a serious round table discussion on feminism—the man looks like he's smoked so much Purple Kush that his sweat may be laced with THC. While Biodome would prove to be his most cringe-worthy performance, this brief and frankly inexplicable appearance has to be a close second, followed by the rest of his life. On second thought, maybe he's the best argument the federales have in their arsenal, what with embodying the ravages of drug use. Will watching Class Act similarly ravage your brain? Only one way to find out, queue-surfer...
Worth Streaming if you Like: Early '90s hip-hop, all of the House Party movies, Weeds (both the show, and the drug).