The Faculty Review

by Heather Picker (ahber16 AT aol DOT com)
July 31st, 1999

"The Faculty"

Reviewed by Heather Picker

    Directed by Robert Rodriguez. Written by Kevin Williamson. Starring Jordana Brewster, Clea DuVall, Laura Harris, Josh Hartnett, Shawn Hatosy and Elijah Wood. 1998, 104 min., Rated R.

    Because of the usual critical overreaction that accompanies the release of many American films that are intended to be no more than an hour and a half long popcorn-filled break from reality, "The Faculty" was panned by most. And I went into this viewing experience not expecting much. After all, director Robert Rodriguez went from "El Mariachi" to "Desperado" and Kevin "Scream" Williamson's scripts become tediously self-referential. The theatrical trailer boasted the previous projects of director and screenwriter more than it did the actual movie. Even the Tommy Hilfiger ad campaign, which would make one believe that R&B star Usher was the main attraction of "The Faculty," quickly wore out their welcome. How did my opinion change after actually seeing it? You may be as surprised as I was.

    Lacking the satirical edge that fueled both "Scream" entries; "The Faculty" manages to be a parody instead, not entirely with success. "The Breakfast Club," "Alien," "The Thing," and "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers" are all evident influences. More than influences, they provide the plot and familiar characters. Herrington High used to be a typical school in Ohio. But lately the teachers have been acting strange, and six seemingly mismatched teens will have to tolerate one another in order to save the day. Delilah (Jordana Brewster) is the head cheerleader and editor of the school paper who is dating Stan (Shawn Hatosy), the star quarterback who is sick of getting preferential treatment because of his place on the social hierarchy. He worked hard for the D he got on that science test. How dare Mr. Furlong (Jon Stewart, host of "The Daily Show") give him a higher grade for having a golden arm that has led to the team having a great season?

    Zeke (Josh Hartnett, "Halloween: H20") is the bad boy. His parents are gone, possibly to Europe, and as he repeats his senior year he sells homemade drugs, fake IDs, and video tapes featuring full frontal nudity of Neve Campbell and Jennifer Love Hewitt (stars respectively of "Scream" and "I Know What You Did Last Summer," another Williamson script) out of his trunk in the school parking lot. Rounding out the group are the new girl, Marybeth of Atlanta (Laura Harris), geeky, much harassed photographer Casey (Elijah Wood, the veteran of the young cast), and Stokely (Clea DuVall, in a standout performance), the sci-fi reading, darkly dressed outcast whose ambiguity leads Delilah to fire off several homophobic insults.

    The faculty itself, consisting of Nurse Harper (Salma Hayek in her obligatory appearance in a Rodriguez film) who's saving her sick days for when she feels better; Miss Burke (Famke Janssen), a bookish teacher who transforms into a sexpot and who has a very funny scene with Zeke; Mrs. Olson (Piper Laurie, who was spooky in "Carrie" and "Twin Peaks"); Principal Drake (Bebe Neuwirth, in a nod to Lillith and her "Cheers" days); Mr. Furlong; and steely Coach Willis (Robert Patrick, from "T2: Judgement Day") is bent on making the town pod people.

    As the six students race to find out who the "Queen" of the pod people is in order to prevent disaster, they begin doubting each other, and with good reason. Fast pacing, dialogue that is at times surprisingly lame, and hokey special effects add to the jovial atmosphere. Particularly amusing are the insults Stokely throws around and Summer Phoenix as a girl who is always yelling profanities at and hitting her boyfriend. It's not quite campy; it's a bit more serious than that. "The Faculty" is, however, entertaining, a throwback to the era in cinema history when cheesy sci-fi stories were viewed at drive-in theaters by teenagers on the weekend. A grade A B movie, recommended.

1999 Heather Picker

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