Unlikely but fun kid adventure
What would you expect to happen if terrorists were to take over a prep school? Maybe a few of you think the kids, led by a troublemaking wiseass, would fight back valiantly, and most creatively, against their unjust captors. That's pretty much all the setup you need to undersand this film. Think of it as Home Alone VI: Your Home Away From Home.
The film goes a long ways to setup the character of Billy Tepper (Sean Astin) and the way he leads his fellow students into good-natured trouble. It's good to see development into the other students as characters, but it's not long before we know who our central character is.
Now, about these terrorists - why would they take over a prep school? Seems the son of the man responsible for extraditing the father of the leader of the terrorist to the United States. They want the son as leverage to get the father released. Does that sound unlikely? Sure, but it's established well enough at the start that this is happening that we're obliged to at least consider the film from that perspective.
The terrorists end up thwarted when the boy they are looking for has already been pulled out of school, so they hold the school as a whole hostage and learn many of the students are sons of high profile folk. As it turns out, the Regis School is a collection point for kids who are kicked out of other schools. I suppose this is preparation for what we are told to accept later in the movie.
Once Billy and friends begin their active resistance, reality turns toward a juvenile fantasy. Their plans are too good. While there are complications, and some great saves, everything falls together a little too perfectly. We're given a young person's action movie (but not someone too young - there are some harsh consequences at times). It's a perfect example of writing by the book, but missing a reality, a certain awareness at its core, of anything other than a particular point of view on the story. Sometimes it shows up in certain aspects being illogical if you look too closely. The movie ends up feeling like it was written by a real life, not as sly or clever, version of Billy.
Looking past the unreality of things, the film is about having fun on the outskirts of what is normally permissible. Sometimes it's funny. Sometime's it's warm - the relationship with the Dean (Louis Gossett Jr.) is done fairly well, though toward the end they create another unlikely plot point concerning trust in their relationship.
What's the best reason to see this film? I'm coming up short there - perhaps it's because you're a fifteen year old boy looking for something fun that's not actually going to challenge you.
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