Graduation (DVD Review)11 May, 2008 By: John Latchem
Stars Shannon Lucio, Chris Lowell, Chris Marquette, Riley Smith, Aimee Garcia, Adam Arkin.
Imagine if the Brat Pack planned a bank robbery, and you'll get the essence of Graduation. While most high-school heists involve showing up mean teachers and stealing tests, director Mike Mayer and co-writer D. Cory Turner have crafted a passable coming-of-age tale.
Carl (Marquette) needs $100,000 to pay for a bone marrow transplant for his mother, who is dying of cancer. His friends all love her and want to help, but all seems hopeless until Polly (Lucio of “The O.C.”) convinces them to rob her father's bank vault and steal old money scheduled to be swapped for new bills. She gains added motivation from the discovery her father (Arkin) is having an affair.
The story is obviously engineered around the heist, with characters, setups and contrivances designed with the requisite payoffs in mind. The friends each have their distinguishing quirks and must overcome the usual complications.
When the heist predictably goes wrong and the situation drifts into Dog Day Afternoon territory, the script shifts its attention to Jackson (Lowell), a genius who lacks direction. He pours himself into preparing the heist, and when it goes sour, he takes charge to improvise a solution.
The denouement is a little too tidy, and the script isn't perfect, but it connects the dots enough to entertain. A highlight is a great cameo from musician Huey Lewis as Jackson's stepfather.
DVD extras are substantial for an indie film, and include deleted scenes and a commentary track with Mayer and Turner, who share a few insights but nothing groundbreaking. All told, however, Graduation stands as a solid demonstration of their talent.