Back in the Day: Film Review

Screen Media Films
This gross-out raunch-fest is one high-school reunion you'll want to avoid.

Actor Michael Rosenbaum's feature directorial debut is strictly from the Adam Sandler school of comedy.

According to his biography on IMDB, Michael Rosenbaum likes to go back to his hometown in Indiana every year and play wiffle ball with his old high school friends. But while that seems like a very nice thing, the actor has unfortunately used it as the inspiration for his feature writing/directorial debut. High school reunions, while they may be fun for all involved, generally don’t make for good screen comedies, and the misbegotten Back in the Day is no exception.

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Rosenbaum, best known for his multi-year stint playing Lex Luthor on the Smallville TV series, plays the central role of Jim, a failed L.A. actor whose most notable gig is serving as a pitchman for an insurance company. Upon returning to his small hometown, he instantly reconnects with his old buddies, including perennially hapless Skunk (Harland Williams); henpecked husband Len (Kristoffer Polaha) and African-American T (Isaiah Mustafa, of "Old Spice" commercial fame). Other characters figuring in the proceedings include Angie (Liz Carey), a former cheerleader currently pregnant with her fourth child, not that it prevents her from smoking and drinking; Ron (Nick Swardson), who has a tawdry sex encounter with Angie in the backseat of a car; and the gang’s former high school principal (Mike Hagerty), who has lost none of his priggishness.

The main plot point concerns the still simmering romantic feelings between Jim and his old flame Lori (Morena Caccarin, of Homeland, whose luminous beauty instantly signifies that she’s too good for this sort of thing), who’s now engaged to Jim’s former high school rival Mark (Jay R. Ferguson, Mad Men).

Clearly having graduated from the Adam Sandler academy of humor, writer/director Rosenbaum clearly aims for the lowest common denominator with endlessly raunchy jokes involving bodily functions, excrement, etc. Two would-be comic sequences particularly straining for outrageousness involve a marathon infectious vomiting encounter between Mark and a hidden Jim, and the sight of a naked Skunk bouncing up and down in the back of a pickup truck, his genitals undulating in slow motion.

While the film reveals occasional moments of sweetness in its depiction of Jim and Lori’s flirtatious encounters, it otherwise traffics in the sort of broad, gross-out humor so popular in the ‘80s, an era that also fuels much of the nostalgic soundtrack. That one character declares that former teen star Debbie Gibson produced some really good pop songs is pretty much all you need to know.

Opens Jan. 17 (Screen Media Films)
Production: Rose and Bomb Productions, Kim and Jim Productions
Cast: Michael Rosenbaum, Morena Baccarin, Nick Swardson, Harland Williams, Jay R. Ferguson, Sarah Colonna, Isaiah Mustafa, Liz Carey, Kirstoffer Poloaha
Director/screenwriter: Michael Rosenbaum
Producer: Kim Waltrip
Executive producers: Jim Casey, Erica Murray, Michael Rosenbaum, Jeff Trockman
Director of photography: Bradley Stonesifer
Editor: Sandy S. Solowitz
Production designer: Emily Bloom
Costume designer: Karen Young
Composer: Rob Danson
Rated R, 94 min.