By Kyle Woolridge
Tim Timmerman, Hope of America gave me hope for amusement. It gave me hope for a fun, light-hearted look at high school culture that isn’t afraid to make fun of itself. I hoped for a comedy that was actually funny and didn’t fall prey to clichés. Unfortunately, that is not what I got.
Let me start with what this movie does well. The overall story of the movie is cute and, as a whole, entertaining enough. The main character, Tim Timmerman, is a good character who has a pretty clear character arc that he stays true to. Tim’s motivations are clear: go to Yale and live up to the expectations set by his older brothers. Since good grades are not an option for Tim, he needs the help of the “Hope of America” award (which grades conveniently are not a factor in) to get into the school of his dreams. Tim is ambitious but selfish, willing to use people around him to propel himself to the top, ignoring who may get hurt along the way. While Tim is established as a very well-liked guy, the film is not afraid to shine light on his flaws and allow for a natural progression of self-realization. His character realizes what changes need to be made in his life and rights his wrongs by the end of the movie to create a well-developed dynamic character. The actor, Eddie Perino, does a good job showing this change.
There are also some well written jokes in this movie, but one I particularly enjoyed was the recurring “assassins” gag. Tim and some of his friends are involved in a schoolwide game of assassins, in which each person is given the name of someone they have to shoot with a pellet gun until only one person remained. Early in the movie, the reigning champion, Ross Thompson, gets Tim as his target, and occasionally turns up throughout the movie to attempt to “assassinate” him. Each time, this results in both characters dropping whatever they are doing and starting a ridiculous, over-the-top chase scene. This happens three or four times in the movie and each time made me chuckle about how silly and random these scenes are.
Now onto the issues with the movie, primarily the writing. This was the first movie made by this production team. They didn’t have to tell me; I just knew. Aside from a few good characters, the writing in this movie is all over the place. The plot is made up primarily of cliché after cliché, loosely tied together by inconsequential plot points that are inserted solely as a method of filling time before the next cliché. There is the guy who starts off using the girl but slowly realizes that he actually has feelings for her. There is the reveal to the girl that he had been using her all along. There is also the “but that was before I knew you” moment (by the way, those exact words were said during this scene). Then they ultimately move past it and live happily ever after. There is even the teacher who flirts with her student (this teacher does everything short of proposing to Tim, even signing the two of them up for salsa dancing lessons). Also, there is the geeky best friend who realizes his popular friend isn’t actually that good of a friend until the end, when they reconcile. All of these overdone situations and characters made me feel like I had already seen this movie; I could have told you the exact ending ten minutes in.
Not only is the plot recycled from countless rom-coms and coming of age stories; parts of the plot just don’t make sense. For example, at the beginning of the movie, Tim and his friends vandalize their rival school’s mascot (another cliché) and barely escape from getting caught. This incident is referenced several times throughout the movie because, during the night of the crime, they are seen by the goofy Paul Blart: School Cop and every time he turns around, he sees their vehicle drive by, struggles with his keys, and loses them. This leads the viewers to believe that eventually Tim would get caught and it would ruin all of his plans, but when Paul Blart: School Cop does track their car and tell the principal, Tim gets away with it with no blame whatsoever! Even when Tim’s rival Mackenzie learns that Tim was in fact involved, the principal ignores her, saying the matter had already been settled. This seemingly major plot point actually has no impact on the outcome of the movie at all.
Aside from the writing, the cinematography is underwhelming as a whole. Many, if not all, of the outdoor scenes are much bluer than the other scenes. The camera crew apparently did not know how to color correct or account for lighting that was not under their control, and it is distracting. The shots overall, while not necessarily bad, are very uninspired and boring. It was shot in the most standard way possible so I guess there is technically nothing to complain about, but also nothing to praise either.
While the amateur team of Tim Timmerman, Hope of America does a lot of things right, the issues in this movie are too big to ignore and distract from the story they are trying to tell. Many of these issues can be attributed to lack of experience and, hopefully, they can improve in these areas going forward. For now, all they have to show is a mildly funny and very cheesy teen movie.