A glossy fictive take on the Littleton and Columbine school shootings, German helmer Uwe Boll's English-language "Heart of America: Homeroom" lands between Larry Clark-style teensploitation and a preachy after-school special -- watchable but hardly laudable.

A glossy fictive take on the Littleton and Columbine school shootings, German helmer Uwe Boll’s English-language “Heart of America: Homeroom” lands between Larry Clark-style teensploitation and a preachy after-school special — watchable but hardly laudable. Shot back-to-back with fellow San Francisco IndieFest preem “House of the Dead” (both filmed in Vancouver, with numerous cast/crew overlaps), “Heart” is unlikely to travel as far — probably not beyond cable sales in North America. Elsewhere, worst-case-scenario look at American life will seem less inauthentic and could win theatrical distrib.

Gimmicky conceit chronicles the two hours before first bell on the last day of school — and the massacre thereafter. This could lend docudrama immediacy, but instead Boll and scenarist Robert Dean Klein pack those early morning hours with a ridiculously soap-operatic truckload of multigenerational crises. (Earth to filmmakers: American kids like sleeping until the last possible second, not to mention dealing with such dramas after school.)

One teen pair is in classic “trouble.” Another finds the virginal g.f. dumped because she won’t put out. Principal Jurgen Prochnow has to reprimand a colleague (Michael Pare) who’s taken his own blocked-writer frustrations out on his Creative Writing class. Punky Dara (Elisabeth Rosen) needs a fix, which campus dealer Wex (G. Michael Gray) is happy to oblige — though he gets hauled into guidance counselor Maria Conchita Alonso’s office.

A quartet of jock bullies crowds around. This crew has been viciously tormenting misfits Daniel (Kett Turton) and Barry (Michael Belyea) for years. But they have a surprise in store: Pushed past endurance, the picked-on boys (along with a third accomplice sprung as a last-minute narrative surprise) are arriving at school with loaded weaponry to “avenge” themselves.

With too many characters and an overcrowded agenda, pic soon feels like a tritely illustrated checklist of things wrong with American society. Both Daniel and Barry live in single-parent homes; former’s dad (Clint Howard) is an alcoholic and batterer to boot.

Dialogue strains to encompass all its issues in terms that seldom ring true, while production’s over-slick presentation of an awfully affluent “suburb” further suggests an outsider’s simplistic view of Stateside life. “Heart of America’s” mingled pretensions (starting with that title) and sensationalism result in a sort of tabloid crudity.

Perfs are OK under the circumstances, tech/design aspects smoothly handed. When not pouring on treacly orchestral music (or stepping aside for predictable rap-rock tracks), Reinhard Besser’s score makes repeated use of an instrumental theme that sounds a helluva lot like Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.”

Heart of America: Homeroom

Canada-Germany

Production

A Cinemedia/Shavick Entertainment presentation in association with Herrold and Besser Studios. Produced by Shawn Williamson. Executive producers, Uwe Boll, Philip Selkirk, James Shavick, Wolfgang Herrold. Directed by Uwe Boll. Screenplay, Robert Dean Klein, from a story by Boll.

Crew

Camera (color), Mathias Neumann; editor, David Richardson; original music, Reinhard Besser; production designer, Tink; art director, Kristen Johnson; set decoration, Sergio Lavilla; sound editor, Jorg Elsner; assistant director, Nico Sachse; casting, Maureen Webb. Reviewed at San Francisco IndieFest, Feb. 13, 2003. Running time: 87 MIN.

With

Jurgen Prochnow, Elisabeth Rosen, Michael Belyea, Clint Howard, Elisabeth Howard, Maria Conchita Alonso, Kett Turton, Maeve Quinlan, Will Sanderson, G. Michael Gray, Patrick Muldoon, Michael Pare, Steve Myers, Miles Meadows, Chris Lovick, Stefanie MacGillivray.
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