“Expelled is a disaster. It’s so regularly unfunny that when a bit came along that I smiled at (and this was an extreme rarity), it was barely worth that paltry effort I put forth to register my appreciation for it.”
by Ken B.
Expelled is a pretty straightforward trainwreck of a movie – the script is dumb, the jokes that land are few and far between at best, the visuals are amateurish, the music is irritating, the characters are thinly drawn and not a single one is anything less than annoying, and the acting is mixed to poor. It is the longest 85 minutes one is likely to spend in front of a screen, besides watching a chunk out of nearly any awards show. The film is written and directed by Alex Goyette. This is his first movie, and it shows. The main star is Cameron Dallas, who has become famous online, largely through amassing a huge following on Vine. Six second videos are not the same as making a feature film, and such inexperience is obvious. Painfully obvious.
This feels like something that was a lot of fun to shoot. I wish some of that fun could have rubbed off on the viewing audience. Dallas plays Felix O’Neil, a student at Eastwood High in SoCal. He’s a legendary prankster, but not so good at hiding his participation in his gags from school administrators – he’s been suspended twice this semester alone. At the start of the film, he’s in the principal (Emilio Palame)’s office again. The dreaded “e” word – expulsion – becomes a reality. Obviously, Felix’s life would be wrecked if his parents (Kristina Hayes and Tom McLaren) found out, and his brother Ben (Marcus Johns) is already at a military-like correctional school in Montana. His mission is simple, yet complicated – keep Mom and Dad in the dark for as long as possible, while enjoying his “early retirement” from school. He’s going to need some help to do this, which comes in the form of his best friend Danny (Matt Shively), as well as winning over some rivals, like library assistant and bitter ex Vanessa (Andrea Russett), to perform tasks, such as printing fake report cards, in order to make sure it looks like life is moving along like normal. (The report card thread contains a singular exchange of dialogue between Felix and Vanessa which was one of the very few things in the entire hour-and-a-half that I found amusing, and the trailer gives it away!)
Before going on, I suppose it’s worth explaining why I would subject myself to such a hideous motion picture – the answer is simple, yet retrospectively dumbfounding: I’ve always been curious about these star vehicles for Internet celebrities, and it had an inordinately high average rating on Netflix (only later did I find out that Dallas’ fans had inflated the score). I was in need of new movies to review, so I added it to the list. And now, I can start my analysis properly: Expelled is a disaster. It’s so regularly unfunny that when a bit came along that I smiled at (and this was an extreme rarity), it was hardly worth the paltry effort I put forth. Every gag is telegraphed from several miles away, and they’re almost all retreads of older jokes that have been told far better in so many other places.
Additionally, Goyette’s script fails to offer a single likable character – just about every guy in the movie is a pinhead, just about every girl is ice-cold, and just about every adult is oblivious and incompetent. In terms of format, it’s clear where the inspiration comes from – there’s more than the occasional hint of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (Felix speaks directly to the camera and the film features an ever-growing chain of events that he has roped his friends into), to the point where it feels more like a cheap rehash of the style at times than a loving homage, and while I’m not the biggest fan of the 1986 John Hughes film, it almost feels like an insult to mention it in the same review.
There’s a point in Expelled where Felix, in one of his Bueller monologues, says to the viewer “Your life is a never ending series of missed opportunities”. In a way, I felt like at this moment, the film had just described itself. It takes the high-concept plot of a high school student trying to hide his expulsion from his parents, and thoroughly wrecks it with cheap storytelling, awful attempts at humor, and a morally murky conclusion that also stretches the boundaries of believability to its breaking point. With a tin ear for banter, accessibility, and cleverness, Goyette, despite being a writer/director, turns in a result that looks like it was the victim of several hundred different studio revisions and marketing watering-down. I doubt he had final cut privilege. There are times where this barely resembles a movie, but a loosely related set of like-a-jokes spliced together and presented under a title. It’s white noise, but for comedy, and roughly as entertaining.
But if you don’t believe me, buy from Amazon: Amazon Instant Video