School Daze (1988)

R   |    |  Comedy, Drama, Musical


School Daze (1988) Poster

A not so popular young man wants to pledge to a popular fraternity at his historically black college.


6/10
6,125

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Cast & Crew

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Director:

Spike Lee

Writer:

Spike Lee

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14 April 2008 | ceebeegee
9
| Fascinating, flawed but compulsively watchable
School Daze is billed as a musical comedy but is better described as a comedy-drama with musical numbers as commentary--the only non-diegetic number is "Good and Bad Hair," Lee's all-girl fantasy homage to West Side Story that addresses colorism between the "paper bag-light" sorority Gamma Rays and the darker activist girls. Ebert wrote that this was the first movie he'd seen in a while where the black characters relate to each other instead of a hypothetical white audience--it is this that gives the movie its engrossing authenticity. (If it matters, I'm white.)

As funny as the movie can be, it's also incredibly hard-hitting--there's a sequence in the last 20 minutes where Julian, "Big Brother Al-migh-tee," insists his girlfriend "prove" her love, that's almost unwatchable and yet brutally honest. Lee has been called sexist for his underwritten female characters--there may be some truth to that but School Daze is far more critical of the men than the women. Rachel, Dap's girlfriend, is perhaps the most levelheaded, likable character in the movie, and is strong and supportive of Dap while still maintaining her independence. Even the Gamma Rays, who come off as shallow and colorist in the beginning, are sympathetic as they stand up for and try to aid the pledges during hazing. The characters who come off the worst are the GPG brothers who are, almost to a man, brutish, sadistic and crude. Julian in particular is unredeemable--clever, manipulative and almost sociopathic in his treatment of Jane. Lee supposedly based the movie on his observations at Morehouse and the movie stands as a scathing indictment against the black fraternity system and its abuse of the women's auxiliaries (aka "Little Sisters").

The movie has structural weaknesses (the ending is problematic and seems to come out of nowhere although it fits thematically) but its biggest problem is Lee's flat performance as Half-Pint (and, frankly, he looks a little too old for it). I love Lee's movies but his early tendency to cast himself in major roles was a real weakness--he's just not a good enough actor and his performance always jerks me out of the story. The rest of the cast is fantastic, though, especially Tisha Campbell as Jane and Giancarlo Esposito as Julian. Notice must also be given to Bill Lee's wonderful score. Ultimately it's a movie whose heart and imagination overcome its flaws.

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Did You Know?

Trivia

"Straight and Nappy" was written by Spike Lee's father, Bill Lee. His sister, Joie Lee, also had a small part in the film.


Quotes

Dap: Wake up!


Goofs

Toward the end of "I Don't Want to Be Alone Tonight", the audio is slightly ahead of the video.


Soundtracks

Wake Up Suite
Written by
Bill Lee
Performed by The Natural Spiritual Orchestra
Bill Lee - conductor
Kenny Barron - piano
Kenny Kirkland - piano
basses - Rufus Reid, Lonnie Plaxico, Michael Fleming
drums and percussion - Joe Chambers, Ray Mantia, Warren Smith, Smitty Smith, Jeff 'Tain' Watts (as Jeff Watts), Kenny Washington
first trumpet - Jon Faddis
trumpets - Earl Gardner, Terence Blanchard, Cecil Bridgewater, Virgil Jones, John Longo
first saxophone - Harold Vick
saxophones - Roland Alexander, Seldon Powell, Robert Watson, Donald Harrison
flutes - John Purcell, Harold Jones, Patience Higgins, William Easley
clarinet bass - John D. Parran
clarinets - Arthur Clark, Haywood Henry, Ken Adams, Eddie Pazzant (as Eddie Pazant)
french horns - John Clark, Vincent Chancey (as Vincent Chauncey), Fred Griffin, Brooks Tillotson
first trombone - Steve Turre
trombones - Benny Powell, Grover Mitchell, Janis Robinson
violins - Stanley Hunte, Sanford Allen, Elliot Rosoff, Winterton Garvey, John Pintavalle, R. Hendrickson, Barry Finclair, Joe Mallan, Harold Kohon, Louann Montesi (as LouAnn Montesi), Paul Peabody, Lewis Eley, Regis Iandiorio, Sandra Billingslea, Cecelia Hobbs Gardner (as Cecelia A. Hobbs), Gregory Komar, Marion Pinheiro, Laura Smith, Patmore Lewis, Frank Wang, Jue Yao, Noel da Costa (as Noel DaCosta), Gail Dixon, Dale Stuckenbruck
violas - Alfred Brown, Jesse Levine, Juliet Haffner, Maxine Roach, Crystal Garner, Harry Zaratzian, Richard Spencer, Karen Dreyfus
cellos - Frederic Zlotkin (as Fred Zlotkin), Marc Shulman, Bruce Rogers, Zela Terry, Carol Buck, Eileen Fosom, Akua Dixon, Ron DeVaughn
harp - Winifred Starks

Storyline

Plot Summary


Synopsis (WARNING: Spoilers)


Genres

Comedy | Drama | Musical

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