|HIGHER LEARNING (director/writer: John Singleton; cinematographer: Peter Collister; editor: Cynthia Harris/Bruce Cannon; music: Gary Jones/Stanley Clarke; cast: Omar Epps (Malik Williams), Kristy Swanson (Kristen Connor), Michael Rappaport (Remy), Jennifer Connelly (Taryn), Ice Cube (Fudge), Cole Hauser (Scott Moss, White Supremacist), Jason Wiles (Wayne), Tyra Banks (Deja), Jay R. Ferguson (Billy), Laurence Fishburne (Prof. Phipps); Runtime: 126; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Paul Hall/John Singleton; Sony Pictures Home Entertainment; 1995)|
|"It was too
schematic, too didactic and too cliched
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An overwrought and provocative drama set in the 1990s at a fictitious Columbia University setting, covering the racial unrest, ongoing problems over peer pressure and other personal issues affecting student life. The diverse campus has blacks, whites, Asians and Latins, all locked in a political struggle. Writer-director John Singleton ("Shaft"/"Boyz n the Hood") keeps it both naive and relevant, as he juggles a multiple of themes but with only mixed results. It's an uneven idealistic film, that's intelligent and stylish but lacking scope and suffering from stilted dialogue.
It follows three incoming freshmen at Columbus University -- the apolitical black track star Malik Williams (Omar Epps), the geeky outcast from Idaho Remy (Michael Rapaport) and the wide-eyed middle-class white girl Kristen Connor (Kristy Swanson) from Orange County.
Malik is bitter that the school only cares about him winning races. In his ear are the radicalizing Black Panther Fudge (Ice Cube) and his moderating girlfriend (Tyra Banks). Professor Phipps (Laurence Fishburne), a father figure on the campus, tries to help all the students cope and is looked upon as the wise man. Meanwhile Malik's roommate Remy becomes a skin-head, whose actions lead to racial violence in the conclusion. And Kristen experiences a date rape, flirtation from the lesbian co-ed Taryn (Jennifer Connelly) and growing pains on the tense campus.
The ham-fisted narrative left me underwhelmed.
REVIEWED ON 5/1/2019 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ