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St. Trinian's (2007)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 1/26/2010

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/22/2010

Americans love Hollywood movies. I'm not stating that as a newsflash, but I needed to get that out to make my next point. While we love homegrown movies, we are taught (mostly by critics and award shows) that foreign films are superior to American films. American movies are supposedly crude and low-brow, while foreign films are sophisticated and deep. I've known for years that this isn't the truth and now, I can prove it to the masses with the raucous British entry St. Trinian's.

The titular institution is a run-down and chaotic private school for girls, which is run by Camilla Fritton (Rupert Everett). As the film opens, Camilla's brother, Carnaby (Everett again), brings his dauther, Annabelle (Talulah Riley), to the school (as a money-saving effort). Having come from a nicer school, Annabelle is terrified by the ill-behaved girls at St. Trinian's who wear provocative outfits and engage in illegal activities (overseen by Flash (Russell Brand)). The faculty and staff don't try to discipline the girls and head-girl Kelly (Gemma Arterton) is both aloof and intimidating. Newly appointed education minister Geoffrey Thwaites (Colin Firth) decides that he wants to make an example of the shenanigans happening at St. Trinian's. What he doesn't realize is that you don't want to mess with the crafty school-girls.

I'm not a scholar of British film (nor did I ever claim to be), so I had no idea that St. Trinian's was a revival/remake of a series of comedies from the 1950s. These films were set at a school called St. Trinian's where the girls were naughty and an actor took on dual roles as headmistress and her brother. Counting the original, there were four films made. As I didn't know that these films even existed, I haven't seen them, so I can't compare them to this new movie.

But, there is something to which I can compare St. Trinian's: Meatballs. Throughout the movie, I kept saying, "This is just a British version of Meatballs...with far prettier women." Is Meatballs popular (or even known) in Britain? I don't know, but I know that this movie mirrors it in many ways. We have a new, homely character thrown into a situation where they are at the "bad" place where the "poorer" kids go. The facilities aren't very nice, the instructors are apathetic and the kids love to pull pranks. They are then pitted in a competition against the "rich" place where all of the best and brightest go. We are asked to cheer for the underdogs, as they are plucky and rebellious, just like us. I'm sure that there are many other movies which fit this mold, but to me, that's the Meatballs formula. Throw in the old chestnut about how the school is going to close unless a certain amount of money is raised, and you've got a movie which wasn't exactly wowing me with originality.

But, originality aside, the movie has plenty of "in your face" spirit, right? I guess. As noted above, we've been trained to think that foreign films take the high road when it comes to class, but this isn't always true. (I'm looking at you Bad Taste and everything made by Joe D'Amato.) So, I was a bit surprised at just how low-brow most of St. Trinian's is. I'm sure that the British would refer to this kind of humor as "cheeky", but I found the movie to be laden with cheap jokes which would seem too dumb for an Adam Sandler movie. There is little cleverness here, and many of the jokes are very transparent. Oddly, I remember watching the trailer and thinking, "That look's funny", but I barely laughed at all while viewing the film. Instead, I kept thinking about how each scene looked just like the last one.

One thing for American audiences to keep in mind is that St. Trinian's is a very British film. What do I mean by that? Well, I used to think that I had a good handle on British slang until I saw this movie. I had to pause several times to look up some terms. And there's way too much ska music in the movie. Is that still popular in England? Really? And, again, I didn't know about the film's lineage. That would help to explain why so many familiar faces turn up in this. While I wouldn't put it past Russell Brand or Rupert Everett to appear in something like this, I am still surprised that Colin Firth is in this. I wanted to like St. Trinian's, but I found it to be dull, lifeless, and nowhere near as sassy as it thinks it is. And here's more good news: the sequel is on the way.

St. Trinian's blows up a lot of stuff for no reason on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing only very mild grain at times and no defects from the source material. The first thing that I noticed about this transfer is how washed-out it looks. The colors are never vibrant at all. The picture is also notably soft and the lacking in detail. The image is never overly dark or bright, so I guess that's good. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track brings us good stereo effects, most notably during the field hockey game. The surround sound effects are OK, but they only seem to come to life during musical cues. I wouldn't expect much in the way of subwoofer in a movie like this, but the explosions pack a nice punch.

The St. Trinian's DVD contains a few extras. "The Official School Diary" (10 minutes) is a fairly staight-forward making-of featurette which contains comments from the cast and filmmakers. They discuss their characters and the film's story. There is some behind-the-scenes footage here. The DVD contains a six-minute BLOOPER REEL. "Girls Aloud - St. Trinian's Chant" is a music video very similar to what is seen during the film's end credits. We get nineteen DELETED SCENES which run about 18 minutes. Clearly these are all quite brief and play more like additional footage to existing scenes.

Review Copyright 2010 by Mike Long