Trippin’

.. In the production notes for Trippin’, screenwriter Gary Hardwick says: "It’s sort of semi-autobiographical about my last couple of years in high school." He also says: "It took me a week to write a first draft and another week to polish it up – that’s the draft they bought at Beacon. Normally it takes a lot longer to write a screenplay."

Viewed through this edifying prism the film makes more sense. What jumps out at us is "my last couple of years in high school." Clearly Hardwick’s "last couple" were not all that different from his "first few" and the "several in the middle." Then we have "sort of semi-autobiographical," or "not really half-autobiographical," or "well, I lied, kinda." That’s good to know, because there was not much to this screenplay, and we can be pleased Hardwick only had to waste two weeks making stuff up.

Yes, Trippin’ is a black movie, with black situations, stars, and dialogue. No, Trippin’ is no sillier than the season’s other high school movies, Ten Things I Hate About You, Never Been Kissed, and Get Real. The High School Movie is always about teen fantasy. The formula says that the lead character must be confused on the surface but good at heart, must have inferior and insipid friends with whom he or she spends every minute, and although the star must have absolutely no self confidence, he or she must nonetheless fall for the choicest cut of hunk or sugar at the socially stratified high school into which his deviant-but-loving parents have placed him. Or her.

Lead actor Gregory Reed’s (Deon Richmond) preoccupation with Cinny Hawkins (Maia Campbell) would be about as likely in real life as Cameron’s with Julie in Ten Things, Josie Grossie’s with her English teacher in Never Been Kissed, or Ben’s with Brad in Get Real.

So why is this film particularly onerous? Because of the ending. At least in the other high school films the stars are hoping for something better. Josie Grossie wants to be a great writer. Ben wants to wake up the world. But the limit of G. Reed’s aspirations is to get into Cinny’s pants. Oh, he’ll apply to some college, but only so his parents will give him limo and tux money so he can go to the prom. At the end of the film when they do the inevitable flashovers about what happens to the lead characters later in life, Greg and Cinny’s flashover says: "He Scored With Her." And then they add another which says "He’s Still Scoring With Her." Even Greg’s entertaining friend June (Donald Adeosun Faison) gets a better future flashover than that: "Gynecologist to the Stars."

Trippin’s side characters are moderately funny, particularly June, and Greg’s grandfather (Bill Henderson) who is always looking to eat more pork ("I’m 75 years old. So I die Wednesday instead of Thursday. Who gives a s___?"). Greg’s parents (Aloma Wright and Harold Sylvester) are believable. But their performances are canceled out by the skanky skunk-butt (sorry, I’ve been watching this movie) role of Mr. Shapic (Michael Warren) who takes egregious disingenuousness to new heights ("Greg, I worked hard to drive a car like mine. I used to own my own business.").

The climax of Trippin’ is the Senior Prom. Cinny is chosen Homecoming Queen and declares that even though Greg is a lying hormone-crazed kid who is going nowhere, when they’re together she is "with her man." Now this is romance.

If you want to see an entertaining black high school movie, rent House Party or Cooley High, both funny and intelligent takes on the subject. I’m sure they both took more than a week to write.

– DAK