Though “crude and sexual content and language” may be the reason “Kickin’ It Old Skool” earned a PG-13, it’s also the reason that rating might as well be interpreted here as “pretty good” (but only if you’re 13). Anyone older who gets more than chortle or two out of this lame effort needs maturing even worse than star Jamie Kennedy’s stalled-pubescent character, who wakes from a two-decade coma. An inauspicious feature debut for director Harv Glazer and all three scenarists, the “Big”-meets-breakdancing comedy will be kickin’ it to ancillary by swimsuit season.
Justin (Kennedy) is a 12-year-old Valley boy who’s the hit of his 1986 school talent show until a showy backflip lands him offstage, on his head. Twenty years later, the sound of Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit” from a passing iPod rouses him, to the amazement of his parents (Debra Jo Rupp, Christopher McDonald), who were just about to pull the plug on him.
Discovering they are nearly bankrupt after all these years of paying for his hospital care, Justin decides he must pay them back the only way his child’s-mind-in-a-30-year-old-body can conceive: entering “Get 2 Steppin,’ ” a televised dance contest that has a $100,000 prize.
First he has to reassemble his multiracial “Funky Fresh Boyz” of yore, none of whom are very funky or fresh anymore: Darnell (Miguel A. Nunez Jr.) is a toy store clerk with too many kids and a shrilly dissatisfied wife (Vivica A. Fox). Hector (Avis Alvarado) is a meter “maid,” and Aki (Bobby Lee), a corporate cubicle dweeb.
Jen (Maria Menounos), the girl Justin liked before he took a long brain holiday, is now a dance instructor engaged to Kip (Michael Rosenbaum), who was a little jerk back then and is a big one now. He also happens to be the host of the dance contest.
There’s no prize for guessing where this is all headed. Even brief guest appearances by ’80s icons like David Hasselhoff and Emmanuel Lewis offer no more than rote “Ha ha, I remember that” yoks, over-applied in references to the era’s videogames, action figures, etc. “Skool” could have at least milked the ’80s angle for some stylistic humor, but there ain’t much style here.
Formulaic by nature, pic suffers in comparison to Kennedy’s own underrated 2003 vehicle “Malibu’s Most Wanted,” where he played a wannabe white rapper. Nor does “Skool” have any of the wit of the current “Blades of Glory” in parodying underdog triumph or pop-dance cliches — the latter a particular disappointment, given that it actually went to the trouble of hiring Shabba-Doo as choreographer. Usual frenetic musicvid cutting doesn’t allow full appreciation of the real dancers’ moves here, notably those of freestyling champ Jesse “Casper” Brown.
Instead, the movie has jokes involving racial stereotypes, pee, barfing, oversized bared buns, the homeless, mental and physical disability, use of the words “fag” and “homo” — oh wait, those last aren’t jokes, just regular dialogue.As TV’s “Jamie Kennedy Experiment,” “Malibu’s Most Wanted” and a few other showcases have demonstrated, topliner is a gifted and versatile comic, but material like this isn’t going to do him any favors.Expected mother lode of soundtracked dance cuts aside, the production is just serviceable in all departments.