Give It a 'C' for Cliched
Pretty early into "Underclassman," we started checking off the cop cliches: Young rebel police officer, there's one. He's following in the footsteps of his dearly departed detective dad, there's another one. Riding his heinie is a cantankerous boss who tells him that the report's got to be on his desk, stat, check and double-check. Ooooh, and here's another one: With this latest assignment, maverick cop is told, "this is a chance to do something different." Check, check, check. . . .
So basically, if you saw "21 Jump Street" back in the '80s, or any of a number of shows featuring cute and cuddly cops, you pretty much know where this flick is heading: Baby-faced but streetwise officer (the multi-talented Nick Cannon) goes undercover at a posh prep school, presided over by a stuffy principal -- check -- ostensibly to sniff out nefarious activities. All sorts of complications ensue when said cop starts to bond with his high school brethren, all played by attitudinal late twenty-somethings trying to skew young. Check.
"Underclassman" has got cliches to spare, but it also has Cannon ("Drumline"), a Nickelodeon alumnus-rapper-singer-producer-actor. Cannon, who also produced "Underclassman," has charm in spades, even when he's overdoing it in the acting department and cracking a little too wise. He has that indefinable "It" factor, and that alone, for a certain segment of the audience, will be worth the price of admission.
-- Teresa Wiltz