Copyright 1999-2002 3BlackChicks Enterprises™. All Rights Reserved.

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Bams' review of
The Kingston High
3BC

TKH

The Kingston High (2001)
Rated R; running time 93 minutes
Studio: Drunken Monkey Productions
Genre: Comedy
Official site: http://www.kingstonhigh.com/
IMDB site: http://us.imdb.com/Details?0279178
Written by: Stephen Townsend
Directed by: Stephen Townsend
Cast: Jeramie Gladman, Chason Bridgman, Chauncey, Nicole Pulliam, Chastity Dotson, LaMonica Peters, Keely Watson, Mark Smith-Sams, Ruel Samuels, Nefatiti Mills, Jacqueline Thomas, Gina Hiraizumi, David Raibon, Derek McKeith, Peter A. Washington, Dimiceo Youngblood, Ralph Sutton, Laila Landon

Review Copyright Rose Cooper, 2002


(click here to skip to this movie's rating)


Let me put my cards right on the table: as far as I was concerned, The Kingston High had two strikes against it from jump. It's an "urban comedy" about sexual escapades (which invariably brings to mind Booty Call... shudder), and it in some way involves getting high. My attitude about The War On [Some] Drugs aside, this just didn't seem like my kind of flick. But my desire to support independent films and filmmakers - especially Black indies - is real; that, and the earnestness of writer/director Stephen Townsend, convinced me to try to set aside my preconceived notions and give it a shot.

Which, ironically, is one of the themes of the movie itself.


THE STORY (WARNING: **spoilers contained below**)
I'm getting lazy in my old age, so I'll let Townsend's synopsis be your guide:

"The Kingston High is an urban coming-of-age story about a high school misfit's last chance to get the girl of his dreams. Regretting his lack of high school 'extracurricular' activity and finally skipping out on his prom, Sketch (Jeramie Gladman) has an epiphany that escalates into one night of unadulterated partying. Putting his insecurities aside, Sketch makes a bet with his pals Histry (Chason Bridgman) and Random (Chauncey) that he will win the love of a girl, Trina (Nicole Pulliam) who has been the object of his affection for the past four years. Now, determined to make prom night one that they'll always remember, Sketch and his crew [and Trina's friends Marcy (Chastity Dotson) and Akita (LaMonica Peters)] canvas L.A., crashing after-parties, meeting girls, and running from a violently jealous boyfriend Mario (Keely Watson) - all in the name of love...or maybe just a good high".


THE UPSHOT
I hesitated on reviewing this movie at first; knowing what the plot was about, I was sure that any review I'd have to offer, would do more harm than good. And while my statement on the "Spotlight On" page stands - "critiques written by 3BC reviewers are, and will continue to be, unbiased, pull-no-punches, calls-it-as-we-sees-it, reviews" - I have no desire to stroke my sometimes overstuffed ego by bashing an fellow struggling artist.

So I'm glad, in this case, that I don't have to. I won't kid you by saying that The Kingston High is The Next She's Gotta Have It, because it's not. And I can't rightly say that writer/director Stephen Townsend should be put up there on the same level as a Spike Lee or a John Singleton. But what I can honestly say is that Townsend's film is a fine effort for one made on such a shoestring budget, having great production values, a professional look, and a cool website to boot. Though not as funny, I'd say that "Kingston" has something in common with Robert Townsend's self-financed Hollywood Shuffle in this.

Story-wise, I may be too old at this point to appreciate the goings-on of high school kids trying to "get they freak on" (though these actors all looked way too old for high school), but fortunately for me, there were other subplots in the mix. If I'd had my druthers, those issues - male vs female, Black man/White woman, or even the whole pothead subplot - would've been the focal point of this movie...but maybe that's Just Me.

On the acting tip, this big cast had various degrees of success. Pardon me if I totally missed her reason for existence, but I had the overwhelming urge to smack the piss outta Shiela (played by Jacqueline Thomas). Somehow, I don't think that was all the character's fault...but again, maybe that's Just Me. Though the movie felt top-heavy with unnecessary roles, the balance of the cast was fine, especially considering their relative acting inexperience; but Chastity Dotson (as Marcy) and especially Chason Bridgman - yes, The White Boy - were outstanding. More on him in a minute.

Ultimately, I didn't buy the way The Kingston High got from Point A to Point B, especially in the way the key boyzngrrls were eventually mated up (not to mention all the dropped plots that I hoped would've been explored more). But I recognize now, in a way that I forgot when critiquing Naomi's Web, that a limited budget means exactly what it implies - and that if I am ever to get my wish for there to be more on the movie horizon than just the same ol' same ol' from overpaid big-budget mainstream filmmakers, that I have to allow some wiggle room for the up-and-comers to ply their craft. A convoluted way of saying, I reckon, that I applaud Stephen Townsend and his cast for their efforts, and look for more from them all in the future.


THE "BLACK FACTOR"    [ObDisclaimer: We Are Not A Monolith]
Nope, this time, it's The White Factor.

There's a scene near the middle of the movie, excellently executed by Chason Bridgman and dealing with "White folks always stealing Black culture", that really made me sit up and take notice. The director of the lame, cross-culture misfire Black And White, could take notes from Stephen Townsend...but that's Another Rant, etc. Like his Down-With-Us-White-Guy thespian kin, Michael Rappaport, actor Chason Bridgman brings a righteous ghetto groove to the screen. He held my attention from the start, and only Chastity Dotson was able to operate on the same frequency as him (until her character went south). It also helps that Bridgman also physically reminds me of a young Ray Liotta, circa Goodfellas. I really can't wait to see where Bridgman goes from here.


BAMMER'S BOTTOM LINE
Don't be fooled by the flashing yellowlight rating: a yellow isn't necessarily A Bad Thing, especially where indie films are concerned. The story's not anything you haven't seen before, and some of the plot contrivances had me wondering what was up with that...but those and a couple other minor flaws aside, The Kingston High pleasantly surprised me by not being Just Another Peabrained HoodieRat Flick. Props to writer/director Stephen Townsend for his professional job (on such a low budget), and to actors Chason Bridgman and Chastity Dotson for standing out against a huge cast.


THE KINGSTON HIGH:   fyellow

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And that's the way I see it.

Rose "Bams" Cooper
3BlackChicks Review™
Copyright Rose Cooper, 2002
EMAIL: bams@3blackchicks.com    ICQ: 7760005
http://www.3blackchicks.com/

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