Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Substitute 2: School's Out (1998)

Though dwarfed by the success of "Gangsta's Paradise," 1995's Dangerous Minds actually did make money. In its wake, numerous films came out in which a hard-nosed white teacher enters the jungle of the inner city to teach the noble savages how to tie their shoes and not murder each other. These movies actually gained legitimacy as a genre, even garnering their own parody with High School High. But the comedy stylings of David Zucker could not compare to the absurdity of The Substitute 2: School's Out.

When his brother is murdered on the streets of Brooklyn, Karl Thomasson (Treat Williams) takes over his high school classroom in order to find the killer. The school is overrun by a gang called "The Brotherhood," whose members wear their hoodies backwards with eye holes cut out of the back.

They don't really think through the "hide their identity" thing. Early in the film, some of the 'Hoods try to scare Thomasson as he walks down the street. It doesn't go quite as planned.

Link to the YouTube since Lions Gate is not letting me embed it

Karl: After threatening me, the perpetrators drove 30 feet ahead, put their hoods on, drove backwards, and shot at me.
Police Officer: Did you see their faces while they were shooting?
Karl: I didn't have to. I saw them put the hoods on.
Officer: But you didn't actually see their faces as they shot at you?
Karl: No.
Officer: Then there's nothing I can do.
Despite the attempted murder in broad daylight, Thomasson isn't intimidated. He seduces fellow teacher and resident slut Kara Lavelle (Michael Michele) by bribing her with pizza rolls, and uses her help to infiltrate the school's "Special Students Wing," posing as a substitute teacher. The wing is on the second story of the school and in complete lockdown, so the students are unable to escape between the hours of 8 AM to 3 PM.

Thomasson uses a Yo-Yo to smash up a kid's orange drank, throws another student's stereo out the window, and pummels three gangbangers in the bathroom. He attempts to sway student Mase (Eugene Byrd) away from The Brotherhood, offering the more righteous path of murder for hire and physically assaulting teenagers.

Karl discovers that The Brotherhood is run by the school's shop teacher, Warren Drummond (B.D. Wong), a tiny ball of white hot raptor-cloning Asian fury.

Even though Thomasson has extensive combat training, Drummond holds his own in the fight. The film sound editor decides to offer his own commentary on the scene.

The unexplained disembodied spectral voice is not an isolated incident. Sound design throughout the film is generally terrible. Sound effects are noticeably repeated in short periods of time. Gunshots are taken straight out of DOOM (I distinctly heard the pistol and the chain gun). The music (aside from the Alice Cooper opening) consists of generic white noise urban beats.

But the sound effects are nothing compared to the performance of Treat Williams, the smuggiest smuggy smug who ever smugged. Making George Clooney look like Thomas Aquinas, he struts around inner-city Brooklyn with a smirk on his face and a skip in his step. Never once is he ever in danger, and the audience never questions his ability to emerge the victor in any situation.

Despite Thomasson's unflinching blandness, The Substitute 2 is incredibly entertaining. Its racism is comical rather than mean-spirited; the black characters are no more ridiculous than any other. If anything, it shows the stupidity of teenagers of every color. These are two witty retorts thrown at Thomasson in the classroom, both resulting in snickers from the other students:
"Whatchoo gonna teach us to use four guys to screw in a lightbulb?"

"Can anybody tell me what an impasse is?"
"Oh yeah yeah, isn't that something like a comp ass?"
As long as you're vitriolic enough toward The Man, insults do not have to actually make sense. Here are some I came up with off the top of my head:
  • What the fuck, Mr. Caterpillar Man? You gonna turn your coat inside out when it's cold?
  • Why you tryin' to teach us books for? Everyone knows they made from the tears of ghosts.
  • Yo teach! Mega me up jamboree, pasta liaison!
What to drink:

Orange drank

Arbitrary ranking system:

An Eiffel Tower, 3 Around the Worlds, and a 32 second Sleeper.


  1. They say I gotta learn
    But nobody's here to teach me.
    If they can't understand it, how can they reach me?
    I guess they can't,
    I guess they won't,
    I guess they front,
    That's why I know my life is out of luck, foo!

    We keep spending most of our lives,
    Living in a Gangster's Paradise!

  2. Well we got no class
    And we got no principles (principals)
    And we got no innocence
    We can't even think of a word that rhymes!