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Canuxploitation!

Senior Trip

(AKA National Lampoons Senior Trip, Senior School) 1995, Starring Matt Frewer, Jeremy Renner, Rob Moore, Kevin McDonald, Tommy Chong. Directed by Kelly Makin.





Guest review by Brett Holmes

By the mid-1990s, teensploitation movies were in a serious stage of transition. A new, more earnest breed of youth cinema like Dazed and Confused, Empire Records, Kids and Kevin Smiths Clerks began to kill off the hijinks for hijinks sake mentality that defined the 1980s screwball comedy in the land of the big snowball. The teenage audience had become more self aware, and the broad strokes of films like Party Camp and Screwballs seemed silly compared to naturalistic independent-minded productions that offered adolescent viewers a more accurate reflection of their lives. It seemed that future Rafal Zielinskis wouldnt be able to draw on the raunchy fun of Porkys and its contemporaries any longeror could they?

A throwback to the glory days of the sex comedy, Senior Trip attempts to dress up the well-worn formula for the 1990s with pop culture awareness, flannel wardrobes and even an Our Lady Peace song or two. At Fairmount High, popular goofball Mark Dags D'Agastino (Jeremy Renner) and lovable stoner Reggie (Rob Moore) end up in Saturday detention after they accidentally destroy Principal Moss (Matt Frewer) car and crash an anti-drug assembly with their AV club pals in a marijuana haze. When they blame the dysfunctional education system for their misbehaviour, Moss forces them to write a letter to the U.S. president explaining their position. On receiving the letter, the Democratic president enlists a slimy Republican senator (Rituals Lawrence Dane) to invite Dags, Reggie and their friends to Washington to speak in defence of a new education bill. But when the self-serving senator discovers that the Fairmount High seniors are more or less rejects, he formulates a plan make them look even dumber than they already are and embarrass the well-meaning Commander-in-Chief.

Aside from the Breakfast Club reference, the 80s screwball antics rear their wonderfully ugly heads as this band of outsiders rip up the highway in their bus of total destruction, a non-stop party on wheels with fat guys pissing out the back of the bus, Friday the 13th fanboy talk, weird Star Trek obsessed madmen, and XXX movies like Forrest Humps they watch in the greasiest fetish hotel in D.C. Booze and all sorts of illegal concoctions are ingested, but the seniors are still out-partied by a horse tranq-chompin hippie bus driver named Red (Tommy Chong, who basically plays himself, as usual). Needless to say, this 70s comedy nostalgia is a sure-fire crowd pleaser as Chong once again sings along to his earlier song classic, Earache in My Eye.

Originally concieved at Harvard, National Lampoon magazine had its first taste of on screen fame when it "presented" Animal House back in 1978, and continued to associate itself with comedies throughout the 1980s, including National Lampoon's Movie Madness, Class of '86 and John Hughes' National Lampoon's Vacation trilogy. But by the early 1990s, the company was reduced to licensing its name to any production that would fork over the dead presidents or in this case, prime ministers required. Senior Trip gladly used the brand name as a rental bait, even though it had some genuine comedy talent aboard director Kelly Makin had worked extensively on the CBCs The Kids in the Hall, and even enlisted troupe member Kevin McDonald to play a small role. But, as was the case when SCTV director John Blanchard tried his hand at sex comedies with the warmed-over Screwball Academy, the transition is a bumpy one that shows the importance of having on-screen talent and a solid script.

Unfortunately, this Canadian film is absurdly American in its sensibilities. Other than a supporting cast of Canucks, the odd song, and the presence of Makin and McDonald, there is little way to tell this flick was birthed in our home and native land. Its a missed opportunity, tooif only the characters could have used Prom Night as a basis of discussion instead of the usual slasher franchises, or perhaps passed on Forrest to spoof a Don Shebib classic (Goin Down the Chode!). Thats obviously too much to ask, but at least the film references Kim Cattralls vocal performance in Porkys in a decidedly unique way.

Ultimately, the predictably outlandish Senior Trip doesnt revolutionize the genre and those in it for any T&A will be disappointed. Makins movie wont ever replace the Bob Clark classic and it falls far short of Meatballs genuinely funny and realistic characters. But those that shy away from modern approaches like American Pie and the recent Canadian effort Pigs will find this a perfectly serviceable update of the genre that will keep your rare tapes of other 1990s Canadian teen comedies like Heavy Metal Summer from wearing out so fast.


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