- Movie Rating -

School Daze (1988)

| February 12, 1988

I have not seen Spike Lee’s previous work She’s Gotta Have It, so walking into School Daze, I only had the faintest idea of what to expect.  Here is a movie that invokes a much more thoughtful framework of films like Animal House or Revenge of the Nerds employing the usual comic bric-a-brak but with a particular voice, some real ideas and real-world issues.  This is a messy and disorganized film, but I admired Lee’s passion in making it.

First of all, this is a film about a community of black college students, their lives, their ideas, their passions, their ambitions, their heartbreaks; nary a white character comes on screen and that’s refreshing.  Typically, Hollywood producers feel that need to add a white protagonist for fear that white audiences will feel alienated.  Well, I’m white and I related to these young people without ever having a white voice to speak for me.

In terms of characters, I felt that I had a front-row seat.  In terms of being a movie, I found it odd and disorganized.  Too many ideas flow onto the screen, sometimes funny and sometimes serious.  Into this framework come issues of sexual politics, Apartheid, Fraternity/Sorority issues, class divisions, skin color (which inspires a musical number), and of course the goal of getting good grades.  Often the movie raises an issue but then forgets to put a punctuation on it.  The movie begins with a demonstration against Mission College’s investments in South Africa but that issue is dropped and never comes up again.

And yet, even with all of its problems, I still appreciated much of the film.  I liked the fact that it was dealing with issues within the black community.  There’s a battle going on between the more light-skinned girls and those with a darker complexion.  It’s not the kind of thing that comes with a resolution or even a heavy debate.  It is the kind of scene that in concluded in your mind or in a debate.  It gets you thinking.

A lot of School Daze got me thinking.  I thought about how little black characters are allowed to tell their own story.  I thought of a producer who once told me that Hollywood only makes one black film a year and that film is usually something dealing with deep south racism.  Or, they siphon their ambitions into a flawed film like Cry Freedom in which the story of anti-apartheid activist Steven Biko is told through a white protagonist.  This is a film about a community of young black college student in the modern day.  It deals with issues that are on their minds and in their hearts.  This isn’t a perfect film but I am bound to see it more for what it is than what it is not.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1988) View IMDB Filed in: Comedy