★★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
Directed by Maureen Bharoocha
Ben Palmer (Connor Kalopis) is a diligent high school senior whose meticulous (borderline neurotic) routine is matched only by his good grades. His best friend Tanner (Ramona Young) on the other hand is whip-smart but like many high schoolers doesn’t spend time thinking about grades and college or even getting up for school on time.
Ben is just one midterm grade away from being accepted to the college of his dreams, the same school his late father attended; that grade is AP Physics. The class has been taught by a legendarily hard teacher, Mrs. Wheeler (THE Rita Moreno) for decades but this term, after discovering that a student cheated on the midterm, she plans to give all her students an F.
The F would stop Ben from getting into college so he and Tanner devise a prank to frame Mrs. Wheeler for the murder of a student who has been missing for a few years and get her fired so the class can be pass/fail and not affect Ben’s GPA. Never mind the detail that they don’t even really know if the missing student is even dead and that they totally know Mrs. Wheeler is not a murderer. The prank goes viral hitting national news and because of Mrs. Wheeler’s decades-long reputation of being a ball-buster teacher, everyone believes she’s a murderer. Feeling a tinge of guilt, Ben and Tanner try to reel in the false story but begin to discover that Mrs. Wheeler may actually have some Skeltons hidden in her locked office.
The Prank is the most fun I have had in a theater in quite a while. This film has major acting and comedy chops! Not only is THE Rita Moreno playing the “bitch of a lifetime,” as she stated in her virtual address to attendees of the film’s premiere, it also stars veteran character actor Keith David as principal Henderson, The Office alum Kate Flannery as Lorraine the lunch lady and Jonathan Kimmel as Joe the janitor.
The film hit me as reminiscent of The Burbs and Nickelodeon shows from the ’80s and ’90s like The Adventures of Pete and Pete. It is a fantastic gateway film and perfect for anyone who wants a thrill (and maybe a few severed body parts) without any major blood and guts.
The Prank had its world premiere at SXSW. Stay tuned to The Scariest Things for news on when you can catch this awesome film.