Like a bubblegum version of 2005’s “Brick,” “Assassination of a High School President” is film noir in a high school setting. Lightheartedly culling from detective classics such as “Chinatown,” the film (kind of) delves into the seedier side of human nature.
Bobby Funke (Reece Thompson of “Rocket Science” fame) works for the school newspaper, but he’s yet to gain any respect from his fellow staff members. As the school joke, he has no one that he can call a friend. However, when the SAT tests are stolen from the principal’s office, Funke is enlisted by hottie Francessca (Mischa Barton) to discover who’s behind the crime. The bizarre trail leads to class president Paul Moore, a chiseled Adonis who is the school basketball star as well as Francessca’s boyfriend. The reporter’s subsequent exposé topples the leader, and Funke skyrockets to the top of the social ladder. Suddenly the school darling, he finds himself nominated for journalism honors and invited to in-crowd parties by the same kids who formerly laughed in his face. Sporting the newly single Francessca on his arm, things seem to be looking up for Funke—expect that Moore, banished to the dungeons of detention, continues to cry foul play. Like a good gumshoe, Funke goes back to the facts and quickly realizes they’re not adding up.
Depending on your personal taste, the following statement may make or break “Assassination” for you: the movie is cute. The homage is in full effect as each character plugs neatly into the detective story formula—from intrepid reporter to femme fatale to girl Friday to…you get the picture. Super sleuth meets secondary school is a neat little premise, but it’s been done before, so if a filmmaker wants to add to the pantheon, it’s best to bring something new to the table. And here’s where the movie falls a little flat. Bobby Funke is a perfectly likable character, but the extent of his investigation technique appears to be wandering about chatting to people. Encyclopedia Brown connected the dots with greater brilliance, and Veronica Mars interrogated with far more wit and cunning. Likewise, Mischa Barton’s Francessca could stand to be more of a seductress and less like Marissa Cooper in a Catholic girl skirt (although it should be mentioned that the film sports a kick a*s soundtrack that would make “The O.C.” proud).
All in all, director Brett Simon’s film is a cute, fun little lark that produces its fair share of chuckles, but it’s not going to break the genre mold. So if you like your crime drama, say, over-easy instead of hardboiled, “Assassination of a High School President” might be the film for you.