Extracurricular Activities is the story of high school student Reagan Collins. Reagan seems like the perfect teenager. He does great at school, goes to wild high school parties but does not drink or do drugs, and is more concerned with impressing his parents than impressing the ladies. When a string of mysterious deaths occur in the upscale town he lives in, Detective Cliff Dawkins thinks Reagan is the murderer. Is Dawkins reaching for straws or is Reagan’s perfect life all an elaborate ruse?
The performances are strong up and down the cast. Reagan and Shelton are your obvious leads, but it would be fair to say that everything is delivered in bite-size portions. There are few scenes that stay with one character for an extended period of time. Extracurricular Activities is as close to being an a ensemble without actually being one that a movie can get.
Timothy Simons is great as Detective Shelton. Shelton is constantly on the edge. His coworkers mock him while he clings to a bigger bust from years back. As the film progresses, the audience watches as Shelton seem to lose his handle on reality. Colin Ford also does well in his role. Reagan could easily have been portrayed as the brooding teenager stereotype. Instead, Ford plays him as a nice polite young man. There is not even a hint of rebellion; Ford does a great job of getting across that Reagan is an extraordinarily good boy.
The strength of Extracurricular Activities lies in its writing. At first, it seems like the movie may try to hard to push boundaries. Within the first couple of minuets, a mother refers to her only daughter as a fatass, for example. It immediately seems like the audience is in for an hour of a half of “shocking” humor. Thankfully, this never happens and the opening turns out to be a great set up for the mystery that is about to unfold.
The writing manages to successfully mix subtly and outrageous antics. The movie is a dark comedy, so it would be a stretch to say the humor is natural. After all, it is not often in real life you meet a teenager who is mad at his mom because she has sex in the driveway with her conman boyfriend. Still, it manages to seamlessly introduce its black comedy into the narrative. None of the jokes are shoehorned in, making even the most random ones at least a little funny.
The subtly of Extracurricular Activities may be even more impressive. Throughout the movie there are comments from Reagan’s parents and other adults that he is too good. It is never in the audience’s face and is exactly how parents that met a teenager like Reagan would react. This all pays off in the otherwise poorly written ending. It is also interesting to see how adults are portrayed in the film. Even when they are in the background, parents are treating their kids poorly. It is a nice way to get audiences to root for the killer.
This is also one of the biggest weaknesses. Sometimes, the plot seems to think it is good enough to just tell the audience to accept what has happened. The aforementioned parents are mean so they deserve to be murdered. Even more egregious is the ending in which the story just expects its audience to put aside what has happened and laugh and enjoy its happy ending. It may be an attempt at humor, but it comes off as forced and nonsensical.
Aside from the two main characters, there is not much in the way of character development. The kids can either be seen as victims or spoiled brats, but that is as deep as Extracurricular Activities gets. The parents are just outright mean or manipulative, the police are dumb, and the killer is smarter than everyone. Still, what characterization there is works fine. This is a movie more about the personality of the story than its cast.
Extracurricular Activities is a fun black comedy about kids dealing with their parents. It may sound like it will be another coming of age story, but it is something completely different. Colin Ford and Timothy Simons do excellent jobs while the rest of the cast adds to the story. The jokes are funny and even though the writing sometimes loses its way, the movie is well worth your time.
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