- Movie Rating -

Three O’Clock High (1987)

| October 9, 1987

What is going on with high school movies right now?  Why must every movie about this institution of learning be a cesspool of guns and violence and despair occupied by students played by actors who are clearly six to seven years past graduation?  You might assume that executives would be trying to copy the John Hughes formula, but apparently that reality takes too much work at the writing level, perhaps those things might seem too real.

Thus far this summer I have endured realities in the form of materialism (Can’t Buy Me Love), hyper-violence (The Principal), dumbbell fantasy (Like Father Like Son) and the insane logic that success might be measured by a lowering the bar (Summer School).  But now comes Three O’Clock High, a movie that suggests that somehow authoritative assistance and common sense mean little to nothing when you’re threatened by a bully.

This is one of the dumbest movies I’ve ever seen, and I say that in the same month that I also witnessed Like Father Like Son.  This is, again, a movie that finds high school to be a total fantasy, administered by indifferent adults and populated by students who seem to be in their mid-20s.

The protagonist is a geeky kid named Jerry Mitchell (played by Casey Siemaszko, age 25) who starts off his day on the wrong foot.  He wakes up late for school, and worse, crashes his car on the way there.  Then the bad news: word has it that The World Bully in the World is coming Weaver High having transferred from one of those at-risk continuation high schools.

He is Buddy Revell (played by Richard Tyson, age 26) who is never presented in this movie as a human being so much as violent hulk who is shot form low angles and lighting that makes the actor look more massive then he probably is.  His personality has two speeds: threatening with words and threatening without words.  A human angle might have been more interesting.  Never-the-less he has a reputation for violent actions like beating up a coach, breaking a kid’s neck, etc.  He is rumored to have been thrown out of every school that he has attended, which breaks with reality since a student this violent and unmanageable would certainly have ended up in a Juvenile Detention Center.  But, hey, this is a comedy.

Jerry is assigned to do a story on this kid for the school paper and, of course, in the process touches Buddy on the arm, which Buddy forbids.  So, Buddy informs Jerry that they will fight at 3pm.  Why a kid who has broken someone’s neck has to curb his violent tendencies until the end of the day is another logic puzzle that this movie doesn’t seem willing or able to work out.

There are all manner of ways out of this situation, but since the movie has to define itself as a dopey comedy, none are employed.  Thinking back to my days in school, I always made it known to faculty members that I was having a problem, but this movie isn’t dealing in any kind of reality.  Every logical step has to be overlooked so that the plot can happen.  What happens in the end comes right out of a Rocky movie with the big fight and an ending that seems piped in from a bad western.  What universe is this?

I kept thinking back to My Bodyguard, another movie about a kid besieged by bullies who hired a tough kid to protect him.  That movie had heart, humanity and a sense of it’s characters.  It also had age-appropriate kids who looked right for the part.  Tell you what, skip Three O’Clock High and track down a copy of that movie.  You’ll be glad you did. 

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1987) View IMDB Filed in: Comedy