Opened: Sept. 17, 1992 | Rated: PG-13
It's not often that a predictable script is turned into a worthwhile movie, but in the case of "School Ties" it has happened.
Brendan Fraser, a brooding Harry Connick Jr. look-alike, stars as a star high school quarterback recruited to a prestigious Catholic prep school, circa 1955. Becuase of the setting "School Ties" has quite a few built in cliches to overcome, but it does it well.
Opening in the hero's home town as he is about to leave for school, the film immediately introduces its time setting with the most recognizable '50s stereotype, rebel guys in their rolled up T-shirts and greasy pompadours. This is played for humor however--every guy in the scene is in this "uniform," and of course, there is the motorcycle gang that like to stir up trouble at the soda shop.
When Fraser arrives at school other stereotypes show up, the nerd, the cruel teacher, and the student pressured by his parents, but are all well acted and enough of an alteration from the stock character that it makes no difference that we've seen them all before.
Fraser is from a Jewish family and decides to keep his religion a secret after coming face to face with anti-semitic classmates and campus personnel in the first few days of school.
In fact, he has a confrontation with the school chaplain that has some not to subtle election year undertones. The chaplain looks disturbingly like George Bush, and refers to the Jews as "you people," a phrase which got Ross Parot in hot water a few months back.
Fraser wins the football games he was recruited for, becomes big man on campus, and meets the girl, played as sensual-but-innocent by Amy Locane. The conflict begins here, as Locane had been the girlfriend of a teammate (Matt Damon).
Damon discovers his rival's secret and uses the bigotry of his fellow students to rally them against Fraser. They accuse him of cheating on an exam in an attempt to get him expelled, and that is when the film gets predictable.
The film making is satisfactory, with creative camera work, clever dialogue, and strong symbolism, like the recurring shots of the hero inside a window, separating him from the world of the school.
The happy ending is inevitable, and it leaves the audience satisfied. In fact, the group at the preview applauded when the credits began to roll. Not many movies invoke that reaction anymore. I think that speaks for itself.
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