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Film / High School High

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High School High is a 1996 American comedy film produced by David Zucker (Airplane!, The Naked Gun) and directed by Hart Bochner, affectionately parodying the Save Our Students genre.

Richard Clark (Jon Lovitz) is a high school history teacher who decides to seek fulfillment by taking a job at an inner-city school rather than the prestigious prep school position which his elitist headmaster father had secured for him. At Marion Barry High School he finds the facilities dilapidated and the kids out of control, but resolves to better the place with the help of idealistic assistant principal Victoria Chapell (Tia Carrere).

This film provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Youthful Mother: Julie, a senior who is pregnant with her third child (and brings her two infants to class with her).
  • Affectionate Parody: It parodies Save Our Students films, but is never mean-spirited in doing so. The main character genuinely wants to help the kids, playing the trope more or less straight in a heavily exaggerated environment.
  • Award-Bait Song: I Just Can't by Faith Evans.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • At one point during his fight with Mr. Clark, Paco is knocked out of a window and has a long, sustained scream, with the belief he fell from a high altitude. Looking out the window, he only fell out of a ground-floor window and was screaming due to being "attacked" by the school's sprinklers.
    • The ending has an assembly of people in attendance for the senior class graduation... all six of them.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Anferny and his “G’s” arriving to save Victoria, Clark, and Griff in the nick of time just as they’re about to be murdered by Demarco. Shortly after, the rest of Clark’s class count as these when they corner Doyle and proudly boast how much they’ve learned under Clark’s leadership.
  • Funny Afro: There's a student with model cars driving through his afro, and another student whose towering afro absorbs a blow from a baseball-bat wielding teacher. The poster also shows Jon Lovitz with an afro.
  • Good Parents: Julie and her husband, in spite of her age and his criminal record (it's implied that he conceived the children while in and out of jail, including through, ahem, conjugal visits). They love their young family and each other, as evidenced by him joyfully waving her on at graduation with their babies.
  • Grammar Correction Gag: Jon Lovitz plays a High School English teacher in a very bad school. In one scene, while facing the blackboard, he asks the students for a sample sentence so he can point out the various parts of speech. A gangbanger pokes his head in the door and delivers a death threat in fairly heavy Ebonics. Lovitz's character mistakes it for a suggestion, and writes it out on the board. He immediately begins correcting the grammar, to the confusion of the gangbanger who threatened him. After a few attempts to make simple changes, Lovitz gives up and says "This is just poor syntax."
  • Hot Guy, Ugly Wife: Mr. Clark took after his mother (who looks exactly like Jon Lovitz).
  • If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten!: Jon Lovitz tries to infiltrate some heroin dealers. They notice that he has no needle marks on his arms, which he explains by saying that he usually takes his drugs "in the ass". They suspect his story and tell him to shoot up. He tries but doesn't know how, and ends up snapping the rubber hose in one of the thugs' face.
  • Impossible Thief: When Mr. Clark first goes to the Inner City School, his car is stolen seconds after he parked it—from an enclosed parking space. Then his briefcase is stolen by breaking off the handles while he was holding it. Inside the school, one student asks if he'd like to buy a watch, he refuses saying he's wearing one just like it, and notices the watch is missing.
  • Inner City School: It's a parody of films where a teacher tries to inspire inner city schoolkids.
  • Left the Background Music On:
    • The trailer starts by playing Gangster's Paradise, then has the teacher protagonist abruptly changing channels on his car radio, showing it to be a parody of Save Our Students movies.
    • A pleasant and positive-sounding song plays over the course of the opening credits as Richard drives to his new workplace with a smile on his face. But when he enters the more shady-looking inner city, he starts looking unnerved as rap music starts playing and changes the channel on his radio...only to find that every station is playing the exact same rap song.
  • Losing a Shoe in the Struggle: Ms. Chapell loses one of her heels when she gets attacked in the library.
  • Love Triangle: Implied. When Griff ran out of the class disappointed, Natalie went after him, then another guy ran after Natalie, then another girl ran after him.
  • Mathematician's Answer: When Mr. Clark takes attendance on the first day, a student arrives late. He asks why she is late, and she responds, "because the bell rang before I got here."
  • My Nayme Is: There's a character named "Cady" and pronounced "Katie."
  • Oh, Crap!: This is Mr. Clark's reaction to watching his beloved record of Glen Campbell's "Rhinestone Cowboy" getting scratched at a school dance.
  • Personal Raincloud: When Mr. Clark is fired after the students all fail the exams and is booed away, the rain in the scene turns out to be coming from a personal raincloud accompanying Mr. Clark.
  • Running Gag:
    • The mention of the missing school principal.
    • Defacing the Marion Barry statue in the courtyard.
  • Save Our Students: Simultaneously parodied and played straight. The school is initially absurdly run down and overrun by criminals, but Mr. Clark plays the "kindhearted Cool Teacher" trope pretty much straight. Him being The Comically Serious is part of the joke.
  • Show Some Leg: Victoria distracts The Dragon by pulling back her skirt to show her entire leg and saying she has a pantyhose problem. The Big Bad suspiciously comments that whatever the problem is, it shouldn't go up that high.
  • Slapstick: While Clark is fighting with Paco, Ms. Chapell inadvertently gets hit several times whilst trying to break it up, including a moment of being knocked out in the fish tank.
  • The Stinger: Two of them.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Despite Richard's best efforts to whip his highly dysfunctional class into shape and improve their lives and study habits, only six students actually pass and graduate. Played for Laughs.
  • Throat-Slitting Gesture: On his way to his first day as a teacher, one of the "students" crossing in front of his car makes this gesture at him simply for being a teacher. Clark's demeanor, however, misinterprets this and just happily waves at him.
  • The Trope Formerly Known as X: Over the opening credits, David Zucker is credited as a hieroglyphic symbol accompanied by the words "The Producer Formerly Known as David Zucker."
  • Unwanted Assistance: When Victoria is winning a fight with a thug, Richard tries to heroically swoop in but ends up hitting Victoria more than her opponent.