Reviewed by: Claire Sawers

After years of practise, Handsome Davis - who comes up with these names? - and his best friend Sammy have achieved a genuine skill at cheating in exams. They know the best ways to smuggle crib sheets, steal exam papers and generally outfox teachers in a bid to gain glowing report cards, whilst doing no real work.

Now, in their final year of high school, the stakes are higher. Principal Stark (a skeletal Mary Tyler Moore) has threatened to put a black mark on the school records of anyone caught cheating in the upcoming exams. Apparently, this would be enough to ruin their chances of getting into a good college, which scares the bi'jesus out of the otherwise imperturbable Handsome and Co. Although they don't give a toss about high school, for some reason, best known to whoever writes this stuff, they care about getting into a decent university.

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Handsome (Trevor Fehrman) and Sammy (Elden Henson) set about plotting the cheat to outdo all others and so enlist the help of the cheating dream team. There's 'Cribmaster' Applebee (Martin Starr), whose ability to write "crazy small" means he can produce the best crib sheets that pocket money can buy; there's 'Horny', the schoolmistress's son, who can get his hands on the freshest exam questions, in exchange for sexual favours from the hottest girls in the year; and there's a whole haggle of swotty schoolgirls just dying to hand over their immaculate class notes, if the boys can flirt with them enough.

There's an almost gangstery feel to the action, as Handsome and his team set about bribing the right people and organising clandestine cheat-meets. With a deadpan voice-over and various scenes where the group gathers to play pool, or count wads of cash, there's a strong smell of Bugsy Malone in the air.

Unfortunately, the teen rule-benders are just plain annoying. It's not their cheating natures, or sly strategies that are the problem - someone like Ferris Bueller became a legend after finding new and improved ways of winding up teachers and being super cool at the same time. Sadly, while Ferris's behaviour was definitely big and clever, watching Handsome and his buds carrying out pranks and devising cheats does not make a good spectator sport.

Bad jokes, a rubbish plot and characters with nothing new about them means this film struggles to even hold your attention. The cheats may crack up laughing, as they "hilariously" pee onto the teacher's stolen grade book, but chances are a 12-year-old watching them would probably find himself rolling his eyes and shaking his head at the immaturity of it all.

Reviewed on: 07 Feb 2004
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A group of friends come up with new ways of beating the system and cheating their way through the high-school year.
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Director: Andrew Gurland

Writer: Andrew Gurland

Starring: Trevor Fehrman, Matthew Lawrence, Elden Henson, Martin Starr, Griffin Dunne, Mary Tyler Moore

Year: 2002

Runtime: 86 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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