Election © 1999 Paramount Photo: E.J. Camp Photo courtesy United International Pictures (Netherlands)

It would seem that Ferris Bueller got a job. Now he's on the other side of the desk and well on his way to a premature mid- life crisis.

To set the record straight: Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick), an ethics teacher (or, at very least, a teacher extremely involved with ethics) at Omaha's George Washington Carver High School is well liked by all his students. He sometimes becomes more involved with their lives and activities than a healthy, normal, respectable, honest, short-sleeved plaid-shirted, necktie-wearing teacher of that ilk ought to be. Not instructed sufficiently by the earlier demise of his buddy Dave Novotny (Mark Harelik), Jim begins wending his own way into unfamiliar territory and slipping down a slippery slope himself. The antagonist for both teachers takes the form of the attractive, ambitious, energetic, and relentless student Tracey Flick (Reese Witherspoon). She's just a girl who won't take no. As the movie begins, she's the early bird whose next achievement involves becoming president of the student council. Mr. McAlister, however, has definitely disturbing reservations about this girl and decides that such rampant and relentless ambition should be curtailed lest she grow into a creature wielding vast destructive forces upon all those around her. With this thought in mind, he persuades all-American boy (spelled "jock") Paul Metzler (Chris Klein) to place himself as candidate for the same office. After all, competition is the democratic way. Paul, who has an intellectual repository that seems to be filled with fruit salad, needs a slight bit of gray cell joggling before he believes it's a good idea. Unfortunately, this athletic young man also possesses a sensitive nature remarkably resembling a vegetable. As a result, he has managed, completely unintentionally and without the slightest awareness, to steal away his sister's girlfriend. (Gee, he wouldn't even never have thought she swung dat way. Duh.) Sister Tammy (Jessica Campbell) is so pissed off by being jilted that she decides to run for the same office as well. After all, that is the democratic way. (And you thought things were rough in the Oval office?)

Election © 1999 Paramount Photo: E.J. Camp Photo courtesy United International Pictures (Netherlands)
At home, Jim is bored to tears fulfilling-up his wifelet (Molly Hagan) and so, before long, finds himself getting unexpectedly involved with Linda Novotny (Delaney Driscoll), the ex-wife of his ex-friend and ex-colleague Tom. This is not the only ethical dilemma Jim winds up becoming involved in along the way, but rest easy because this is a Matthew Broderick movie and there's bound to be a happy ending. Even for Tracey and Tammy. Not to mention Paul, who probably wouldn't notice the difference anyway.

This is a film for the MTV generation made by the MTV generation. The dialogue and situations will make you smile and laugh more than once. Every now and again, there's a little gem to be found. (Take, for example: "Where does one go when he's been thrown out by his own family and cast out by society? To New York!") A mature, well-constructed story with well-defined performances makes this not only an enjoyable movie, but place it a cut above the usual "high school" film fare. A pity, however, that those many tinted shades of ethical crises, hypocrisies, and ruthless decisions found in this small community beg vague comparison to the far superior film "American Beauty." Even certain musical interludes (e.g. the background score during the scene with the final counting of the ballots) here bear a resemblance. This movie, however, should not be taken as attempting to be any kind of parable, but simply enjoyed as a representation of school life and an occasion for having fun. (Please do not search more deeply, whether or not the author of the original book intended parallels to the 1992 presidential election and the unexpected introduction of Ross Perot. Huh? Excuse me, aren't we getting the slightest bit pretentious?)

On the whole, no humdinger, but no bee stinger.

© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett