"Dizzy" Gillespie Harrison (Qualls) is starting his senior year at Rocky Creek High School, a place where he and his bandmates are tormented by the other, cooler students.
On the first day of the new year, he's horribly humiliated in front of the entire student body and placed on drugs to control his Tourettes. High on his new pills, he gatecrashes a gospel choir and is locked up to sleep it off. While in prison, he meets Luther (Griffin), who teaches him how to bust out of his old high school and re-invent himself.
Dizzy — now Gil Harris — moves on to East Highland High, where he rapidly becomes popular and a mascot for the suddenly-resurgent football team.
This film provides examples of:
- Alpha Bitch: Danielle is a complete inversion - she's brunette, she's not rich, and she appears to be a genuinely nice person while being captain of the cheerleading squad and having her own Girl Posse.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: After the first football game.Principal Undine: "It's a bill, for manure cleanup, resodding the football field, and to top it all off, somebody urinated into Mrs Campanella's rose garden!" Leads directly to...
- Arson, Murder, and Lifesaving:Principal Undine:"And do you wanna know what else? It was all Worth It!"
- Big Bad: Connor, the head bully of Dizzy's new school. He later forms a Big Bad Duumvirate with Barclay, the bully from Dizzy's last school.
- Big Damn Heroes: Luther and the guards at the end.
- Big Good: Luther see's himself as this.Behind every so-called hero there's a little pissed off dude who don't get NO CREDIT!
- Blatant Lies: Quite a few of Gil's claims fall into this category
- The Cameo: The movie is filled with them, especially from musiciansTony Hawk, Jai Rodriguez, Vanilla Ice, David Hasselhoff, Tommy Lee, Kool Mo Dee, Henry Rollins, John Todd, Jermaine Dupri, Kyle Gass, and Gene Simmons all make appearances.
- Cardboard Prison: Dizzy is able to come in freely and mingle with the cons to get training. Luther and the guards just appear at Homecoming.
- Casting Gag:
- Danielle drops a few Albanian phrases. Eliza Dushku is of Albanian descent.
- Gene Simmons's cameo as an abstinence-preaching Reverend.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Dizzy/Gil. Certainly Luther's "training" doesn't account for all of Gil's badassness.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Exploited, as Luther arranges for Dizzy to arrive at his new school trussed up like Hannibal Lecter, giving him an air of mystery.
- Darkest Hour: After suffering a public Groin Attack and being diagnosed with Tourettes, Dizzy is locked up for interrupting a gospel choir.
- Deadpan Snarker: Danielle. While her friends are squeeing about Gil's time in prison, she offers, "Forgive my friends. They get shy around strangers." and Nora. When Kirk and Glen try to play up their involvement with with Gil in prison her interjection is, "Mostly in the shower."
- Despair Event Horizon: Drives Dizzy to become Gil.
- Distaff Counterpart: Diane. She has similar rejections of the status quo and reconnects with her "uncool" past like Gil. And her end of movie exposition explicitly explains her as Dizzy/Gil's counterpart writ female.
- Eccentric Mentor: Luther. Teaching Dizzy to do Crazy Eyes, letting fellow prisoners teach him to fight and dance, "motivating" him to climb a rope by setting the rope on fire...
- Fanservice: The swimsuit scene is a deliberate case as it has absolutely nothing to do with the plot. It's actually explained this way in-universe as Luther stops telling the story, apologises and says he's been in prison for a long time.
- Felony Misdemeanor: After all the shenanigans Dizzy gets up to in his quest to be expelled (including blatant cheating on a test, bribing a teacher and stealing a video camera to film the school principal on the toiler), the one act that actually works is... breaking a mop.
- Genius Bonus: Luther says that some people are born with the knowledge (of being a badass), and Diz suggests that Barclay (a bully from his old school) was born that way. Well, Bishop George Berkeley (pronounced "Barclay"), an Irish philosopher, was renowned for his belief that inborn knowledge did not exist (the so-called "tabula rasa" or "blank slate") and that understanding developed based upon phenomenological experience.
- Gang Initiation Fight: The protagonist has to be beat up someone both in prison and in his new school in order to gain respect.
- Girl Posse: The three main cheerleaders - Danielle, Michelle and Courtney.
- Groin Attack:
- The final straw that pushes Dizzy over the edge.
- The whole point of the "Tiger Claw" attack.
- Harmless Villain: Connor when you get down to it. A lot of his insults are directed towards a midget teenager. He does virtually nothing to affect the plot, until near the end of the movie. And he gets knocked out by Dizzy three times, in the same scene.
- Here We Go Again!: Turns out that the whole film, being narrated by Luther, is a "success story" of how his method works which he's telling to David Hasselhoff.
- Humiliation Conga: Dizzy suffers several of these - one before the movie even starts. The two bullies get their own brief one at the hands of Luther and the guards at Homecoming.
- Intoxication Ensues: Dizzy, when he overdoses on his Tourettes medication.
- Jerk Jock: Barclay and Conner. They team up at the end, united by their hatred of the protaganist.
- Misery Poker: Luther's statement under Prison Rape leads to this.Luther: I've seen terrible things...
Dizzy: Yesterday, an 80-year-old librarian broke my penis.
Luther: ...you win.
- Ms. Fanservice: Danielle. Especially with the swimsuit scene and the whole "wearing a bandanna as a shirt" thing.
- Popularity Food Chain: An unusual visual example with The Tower - cool kids at the top, geeks at the bottom, everyone else in between in order of coolness.
- Prisons Are Gymnasiums: The prison yard is filled with gym equipment.
- Prison Rape: Refered to by Luther.Luther: "High school's a lot like prison. Bad food, high fences. The sex you want, you ain't gettin'. The sex you're gettin', you don't want."
- Reality Ensues: Connor and Barclay. At the end they count on public approbation and force to put Diz down. Diz, whose friends are adults. Adults with guns!
- Riding into the Sunset: Played for Laughs during the Dizzy and Danielle are on the team's mascot horse and begin to ride into the sunset to dramatic music when the horse dumps Danielle off.
- Refuge in Audacity: How Gil inspires the football team.
- School Idol: Gil becomes this, leading the resurgent East Highland football team to victory.
- Shout-Out: Many. Notable ones to Animal House and Braveheart. In order to impress the kids of his new school, Luther pulls a few favors with the guards and Gil is delivered on his first day restrained like Hannibal Lecter.
- The Cheerleader: Danielle. Also Courtney and Michelle.
- Training Montage: In the prison, transforming Dizzy into Gil.
- Unreliable Narrator: The main story is told through the eyes of Luther, a convict who is quite possibly insane.