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A beachside bicycle cop, Tre Stokes is determined to move on to bigger and better things on the force, like his father and grandfather before him. But it doesn’t help matters much that, at 24, he’s still called “Babyface” by his colleagues and superiors. Another strike against him is the fact that he’s constantly getting into trouble for stepping out of line on the job.
When he’s assigned to go undercover to investigate the death of a student at a California prep school, it seems Tre finally has his shot. But the exclusive Westbury School and its filthy rich kids don’t exactly welcome this—black—outsider with open arms. He finally manages to befriend a couple of key kids, though, and his inside track leads him to the heart of a drug ring that uses stolen cars to finance shipments.
The value of education is emphasized on several occasions, with one teacher telling Tre that doing well in school makes him a true man: “[If] you put the time and work in, you’ll succeed.” Tre regrets dropping out of high school shortly before graduating, and by the end of the movie, he’s congratulated for earning his diploma.
Despite being a hothead, Tre realizes he can’t solve the case alone and asks his fellow officers to work with him. The same realization is made on the basketball court, where Tre goes from ball hog to team player. He also befriends a couple of high school guys despite being ridiculed, and he refuses to believe the worst about one of them.
Quoting his father, the young cop reminds his captain, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” The captain later encourages him after giving him a second (and third) chance at redemption. A fellow officer goes out of her way to get Tre his job back after he's sacked.
A group of basketball players huddle together to pray before playing. However, their prayer includes such offensive requests as, “May the hot young ladies freak each one of us all night.”
Speaking of "freaking," teens are seen “freak dancing” at a party. The camera lingers on a couple of topless sunbathers (who cover their breasts with their arms as they get up). Besides ogling young women in bikinis, cleavage-baring tops and short-skirt school uniforms, Tre flirts with a “hot” Spanish teacher who is fond of wearing revealing tops in the classroom. On several occasions, he barrages her with sexually and racially loaded innuendoes. Various characters make jokes about herpes, crabs, “sloppy seconds,” Viagra, erections, safe sex, underage sex, gay sex and oral sex.
Tre is a sharpshooter and is known for never missing. True to form, he shoots several bad guys on first try (no blood is shown) during multiple gun fights and also blows out the tires of a few vehicles. An officer takes a bullet to the shoulder, and a suspect gets hit in the leg. A man is impaled, though we only see his facial expression. He’s also punched and kicked in the face repeatedly. Tre whacks a drug dealer in the groin and across the face with a large metal object.
High school students get in a brawl, with Tre and a teenager each landing several hard punches. A handful of vehicles tumble and get blown up. Several bystanders get knocked over during a chase scene. An on-court skirmish erupts after a hard foul during a basketball game. Tre gets body-slammed, clothes-lined and roughly tackled in the midst of a rugby game. He also takes a mean spill on both a bicycle and a jet ski. A student jokes about his mom killing him by shoving her heel into his temple.
Crude or Profane Language
Almost a half-dozen s-words are combined with more than 30 milder profanities (half of which are “a--”). God’s and Jesus’ names are each misused once.
Drug and Alcohol Content
The drug ring Tre stumbles upon revolves around Bliss, which is said to be twice as potent as Ecstasy. It's shown hidden in bottle caps more than once. Students make a toast and presumably drink alcohol at a party. A friend of Tre’s talks about doing shots off of girls’ stomachs, and he's later seen drunk. (There are absolutely no repercussions or fallout seen after teens drink in this film; in fact, the kid who gets drunk doesn't even have a hangover the next morning.)
Other Negative Elements
Tre twice tries to cheat on an exam and tells a student that he’ll beat him up if he doesn’t help him. He’s caught but receives little more than a slap on the wrist. In a drawn-out, crudely scripted and very unfunny scene, an officer relieves himself in the bushes. Several other rude references are made regarding bodily functions and bathroom activities. A homeless man carries his urine in a jar. Tre pulls down the shorts of an opponent during a basketball game. Students are shown selling drugs and stealing cars.
Eddie Murphy. Chris Tucker. These are just a couple of the comedians-turned-action-stars Nick Cannon seems to be wishing he could be in the underwhelming Underclassman. But funny Nick is not. And after going to the ‘hood-meets-the-‘burbs joke well one too many times (OK, try 100 too many times), the MTV regular and his horribly written script run dry—car chases, gun fights and all. You know you’re watching a stinker when the movie’s villain looks a kidnapped teacher straight in the eye and says, “I’m afraid your tenure at Westbury has just come to an end.”
Who thought up this stuff? Well, actually Nick Cannon did ... with the help of a pair of B screenwriters who’ve penned such classics as The Girl Next Door, Van Wilder and Saving Ryan’s Privates (yes, you read that correctly). Thankfully, Underclassman avoids the R-rated raunchiness of those sophomoric flicks. But the trio responsible for it will probably never truly know the meaning of the words propriety and taste, and they seem quite happy to regurgitate every cop movie cliché and plot point they can think of.
To their credit, they plug the importance of education and teamwork in PSA-like fashion. It’s just too bad they couldn't do it with any kind of style or with any kind of true creativity.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Nick Cannon as Tracy “Tre” Stokes; Cheech Marin as Captain Victor Delgado; Shawn Ashmore as Rob Donovan; Kelly Hu as Lisa Brooks; Angelo Spizzirri as David Boscoe; Roselyn Sanchez as Karen Lopez; Hugh Bonneville as Headmaster Powers
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