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Trippin’

Just average as comedy, the energetic "Trippin'" nonetheless lifts itself somewhat above the current teen pic fray by virtue of its unusually serious-minded and well-thought-out message of self-determination. Unlikely to cross over beyond largely African-American auds, slick low-budgeter should do respectable biz in quick theatrical playoff, then become a must-rent item for its youthful demographic at the vid store.

Just average as comedy, the energetic “Trippin'” nonetheless lifts itself somewhat above the current teen pic fray by virtue of its unusually serious-minded and well-thought-out message of self-determination. Unlikely to cross over beyond largely African-American auds, slick low-budgeter should do respectable biz in quick theatrical playoff, then become a must-rent item for its youthful demographic at the vid store.

Actor-turned-writer-director Gary Hardwick’s screenplay reveals its “Walter Mitty”-type concept right from the start as Greg (Deon Richmond) dreams of a rap video lifestyle in which women, wealth and high style are his. “What’s da bomb?/Me at your prom,” he brags. But upon waking, high school senior Greg faces a less appealing reality — his middle-class, hard-working parents nag him to fill out college applications, his part-time job at a rib joint is a drag and nobody wants to be his prom date.

Best friend June (Donald Adeosun Faison) doesn’t have the latter problem: He’s hustled so many girls with empty promises in exchange for sex that half the female campus population expects to attend the prom as his date. June, unwisely, also is selling some stolen goods for suave local thug Kenyatta (Stoney Jackson).

Another friend, Fish (Guy Torry), is just an all-around goof whose constant videocamming doesn’t add much to pic’s visual or narrative drive.

Their role-model teacher Mr. Shapic (Michael Warren) warns that living in the moment — especially with graduation just a month away — will have dire consequences.

But at first, Greg’s only “goal” is a seemingly unattainable one: making good on his crush on Cinny (Maia Campbell). Gorgeous, straight-A student already accepted to university, boyfriend duly in tow, Cinny is way out of Greg’s league. But he manages to develop a friendship with her by asking for help with his own (alleged) college application process.

Eventually, this platonic relationship gains romantic overtones, and Cinny (feeling cramped by her bossy b.f.) even accepts Greg’s prom invite. Perhaps even more important though, various factors start making Greg aware that life does go on after graduation, and he’s not at all prepared for it. While at first he considered college something for suckers, he increasingly recognizes it as his only chance to avoid a life of drudge work — or the criminal life, toward which June is now being strong-armed.

Not just a tacked-on moral but the engine driving the plot, pic’s emphasis on the importance of creating a future for yourself is relayed most cunningly in a couple of scenes.

In one, a career fair at DuBois High School is ignored by students with nothing on their minds except partying. In the other, Joe, June and Fish face off against bad guy Kenyatta, who gloatingly tells them that while they may disdain him now, they’ll soon realize his is the best “job offer” they’ll ever get. There’s also a tart fantasy bit in which Greg imagines himself as a middle-aged loser.

Tacit message here is that career options and material gains don’t come easy for African-American youth, now more than ever. Without waxing too preachy, this strongly advanced lesson gives the film a real backbone amid the otherwise OK but routine comic antics involving bullies and smart-mouthed women (notably Countess Vaughn’s turn as Cinny’s pal Anetta).

If no gag is particularly inspired here, at least Hardwick and actor-turned-director David Raynr avoid the usual teen pic siren call of dumb slapstick and rote scatological riffing.

The pliant-featured Richmond is an agreeable, comically adept lead. Other perfs are good within the limits of roles that are credible, if generally lacking in depth. Pacing is sharp, lensing slick, soundtrack full of hip-hop tunes, as one would expect.

Trippin’

  • Production: A Rogue Pictures release of a Beacon Pictures production. Produced by Marc Abraham, Caitlin Scanlon. Executive producer, Thomas A. Bliss. Co-producer, Diane Batson-Smith. Directed by David Raynr. Screenplay, Gary Hardwick.
  • Crew:
  • With: Gregory Reed - Deon Richmond June - Donald Adeosun Faison Cinny Hawkins - Maia Campbell Fish - Guy Torry Louise Reed - Aloma Wright Willie Reed - Harold Sylvester Jamal - Cleavon McClendon Gramps - Bill Henderson Shapic - Michael Warren Anetta - Countess Vaughn Kenyatta - Stoney Jackson
  • Music By: