There was a time when break dancing was the hottest thing around. For this film, that time is 1986, when a talented young dancer goes too big in a dance contest, flips off the stage and winds up in a coma. He wakes up 20 years later, a grown man with the mind of a 12-year-old, an unhealthy passion for break dancing and a crush on the girlfriend he almost had two decades earlier.
With that premise, how can you go wrong? Plus, you know Kickin’ It Old Skool is a righteous movie because it spells ‘School’ with a ‘k.’
Alright, so the film is seriously flawed in several ways. But, the truth is it’s also quite a bit funnier than it has any right to be.
Jamie Kennedy (Malibu’s Most Wanted) stars as Justin Schumacher, the 32-year-old kid. Right before his coma-inducing accident, Justin and his dance team were on the brink of beating his arch rival, Kip Unger (Michael Rosenbaum, Smallville), in the dance contest, and he’d just out-macked Kip to earn the affections of cutie Jennifer, the girl both guys had a crush on. Needless to say, the whole being-in-a-coma-for-20-years thing really put a damper on things.
Luckily for Justin, not much has changed. In no time at all, he tracks down his former dance buddies, Jennifer and the old rival, Kip. His friends have grown apart and stopped dancing, but Jennifer and Kip are now engaged. That’s not all that’s wrong in Justin’s newfound life; he also learns that his parents are in danger of losing their house, thanks to all the medical bills Justin racked up over the years. So Justin’s got his work cut out for him. He needs to win back Jennifer and earn enough money to save his parents’ home. To accomplish all that, he has only one option: win $100,000 in a break-dancing contest, by reuniting with his boys for one last moment of glory.
I expected this film to suck, but it actually managed to surprise me for the first 20 minutes. When the premise is still fresh and they haven’t run out of recognizable 80’s references, Kickin’ It Old Skool is pretty funny. Even more surprising is that the humor stays above the belt. Unfortunately, everything goes wrong after that first blast of funny. The culprit? A sidejoke involving a homeless guy who tries to break dance, collapses, farts and then urinates all over the sidewalk. It’s absolutely disgusting, and the worst part is, this becomes a running joke repeated twice more, in escalating fashion, before the film is done. Wait, no, the worst part is this joke marks a shift in the film’s humor, crossing below the belt, where none of its jokes are even worthy of a chuckle.
Kicking the movie while it’s down, the “plot” is also riddled with problems. There are signs all over the place that the filmmaking team didn’t know which ideas would work, and were too lazy to smooth things out as they went along. If you watch the deleted scenes on this disc, you’ll see some really awful scenes, but also some holes filled and dots connected that should have been in the film. But I don’t want to give them too much credit, because there are still a lot of things that just plain don’t make any kind of sense with or without the deleted material. For example, bizarre cameos by David Hasselhoff and Emmanuel Lewis.
Before moving on, I would like to give props to Christopher McDonald (Happy Gilmore) and Debra Jo Rupp (That 70’s Show), who turned in relatively hilarious performances as Justin’s high-strung parents. They make a good pair, and the film would have benefited from more of their schtick.
Since I can’t possibly end on a positive note, I’d like to point out the tag line used to promote this film: “Break dancing isn’t dead — it’s been in a coma!” That’s not bad, but they got it wrong on the DVD case, which emphatically states, “Break Dancing Isn’t Dad…”
Kickin’ It Old Skool is presented on one disc, in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. It looks fine, but it’s not like the visuals are anything worth talking about — even the drawn-out dance competition sequences don’t offer much to please the eyes. Colors are consistently in the natural range, the picture is sharp and there are no noticeable problems with the transfer. This, of course, prompts the age-old question, why do bad films get nice transfers?
Main audio comes by way of a 5.1 Dolby Digital track. Like the video, the audio is fine for what it offers. The mix is balanced, with dialogue always audible and the sometimes-hopping 80’s-inspired soundtrack loud and clear all around. One of the film’s best moments, enjoyable largely because it’s the first scene and your hopes have yet to be crushed, has young Justin waking up to a classic 80’s hip-hop tune and break-dancing his way out of bed. When the song fires up and Justin starts to move, you’ll appreciate the moment thanks in part to this solid audio presentation.
5.1 audio is also available in French, while subtitles are offered in English and French.
Kickin’ It Old Skool doesn’t offer much in this department, thankfully. There are a dozen deleted scenes, 11 of which should never even have been scripted, let alone shot, and the film’s theatrical trailer, which I’d recommend over watching the actual movie. The trailer hits most of the high points and leaves out the other 90 minutes of garbage.
If you’ve seen the trailer for this Jamie Kennedy vehicle, you’ve seen enough. I’m honestly disappointed in this film’s poor quality, because there are signs that in the right hands, it could have been a harmless, fun comedy. Too bad. The DVD itself is a decent effort, but please avoid it anyway.