Year Released: 2003
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 105 minutes
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“Graduation Day” is a perfect example of how to cram two opposing movies into one, with wildly mixed results. The first, and superior of these two movies, is an affecting, post-college dramedy about growing up and graduating into life and love. The second, and more problematic, is a forced and often mean-spirited attempt at irreverent hipness. This schism results in one confused movie. When writer/director Matt A. Cade isn’t D.U.I.C. (Directing Under the Influence of “Clerks”), his “Day” can be quite sweet and sincere. But then just as quick, “Day” tries hard to get its edge on by noting anal sex as a major source of inspiration in pop music (Sheryl Crow, Meatloaf, both guilty), making game of a particularly, ahem, large-bottomed female, or some other such lamely attempted jabs at hipper-than-thou humor. Nonetheless, as a whole, “Graduation Day” is not without its charms.
McCaleb Burnett is quite effective as Chapple King, a regular dude whose feet are getting seriously cold with just a week to his wedding day. Sure, Chapple loves his beautiful and near-perfect fiancée, Stephanie (played sweetly by Anna Zielinsky), and has no problem committing to her for life. It’s just that he can’t seem to get over his old college crush, the tall and striking blond, Maddie (played by the tall and striking Meredith McCoy), who has suddenly popped back into his life looking better than ever. Chapple and Maddie were never anything more than just good friends in college, yet there always seemed to be the promise of something more, at least in Chapple’s eyes. Was the fire-and-ice Maddie just a tease? Or was she really the one that got away? The clock’s ticking as Chapple struggles to listen to his heart and make up his mind. His best friend, Glen (Mark Reeb), a slightly rough-around-the-edges movie theater manager (okay, he’s a total jerk), may just have it right: Chapple simply wants that which he can never have. We are reminded that sometimes our best friends know us better than we know ourselves, that is, when they’re not stoned or drunk out of their minds, of course.
Now that was “Graduation Day” that worked for me. I really believed in Burnett’s performance as a man being genuinely torn in two by his confused emotions. On the one hand is his fiancée, whom he knows loves him and is probably way too good for him. On the other hand is the flirt who always ends up dissing him after thoroughly screwing with his mind. It’s such a typically male dilemma: we fail to see how good we’ve got it and feel the need to screw it up by going after the impossible. There’s nothing especially revelatory here, just something so… true. What didn’t work as well for me (you know, that second movie) mostly involved the character of Glen. It’s not Mark Reeb, who’s perfect for the role, that I have problems with. Mostly it has to do with the blunt vulgarity of Cade’s “comedic” writing. The character of Glen had by far the most potential in the movie to add spice to the otherwise by-the-books plot. But all that potential is squandered by lame, unnecessary riffs on pop-culture and sex that even Kevin Smith would disown. Mr. Cade, if you’re going to write edgy dialogue or situations, please come up with something better than having one of your characters make a plastic mold out of his manhood. On your graduation day, remember the authentic humanity you gave your characters on theirs.
Posted on January 3, 2003 in Reviews by Daniel Wible
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