High School High is a 1996 American comedy film about an inner city high school in the Los Angeles, California area, starring Jon Lovitz, Tia Carrere, Mekhi Phifer, Louise Fletcher, Malinda Williams, and Brian Hooks. It is a spoof of movies concerning idealistic teachers being confronted with a class of cynical teenagers, disengaged by conventional schooling, and loosely parodies High School Confidential, The Principal, Dangerous Minds, Lean on Me, The Substitute, Stand and Deliver, and Grease. The film is dedicated to the memories of casting director Elisabeth Leustig and actor Lexie Bigham, both of whom were killed in automobile accidents shortly after filming was completed.
Richard Clark (Jon Lovitz) is an unsatisfied prep school teacher at the fictional Wellington Academy, who accepts a job at inner city Marion Barry High School, much to the chagrin of his boss and father, Wellington headmaster Thaddeus Clark (John Neville). Richard arrives to find the school in a state of disarray and disorder, while meeting several students and faculty members, including jaded, sour principal Evelyn Doyle (Louise Fletcher), her cheerful assistant Victoria Chappell (Tia Carrere) and student Griff McReynolds (Mekhi Phifer).
Despite initial opposition to his teaching style and harassment from the school gang leader Paco (Guillermo Díaz), Richard begins connecting with his students and teaches them effectively, while developing a romantic relationship with Victoria. Barry High eventually is transformed into a fine educational establishment. Frustrated, Paco and his gang tamper with the school's final exam scores, causing everyone to fail. Griff, who grew to see Richard as a mentor, loses faith in him, as does the rest of the school and Richard is fired. Griff subsequently joins Paco's gang to make extra money.
Victoria learns through word of mouth that Paco was behind the failing test scores and rushes to inform Richard, who decides to confront Paco and rescue Griff with the help of several of his students, including Anferny Jefferson (Brian Hooks), Natalie Thompson (Malinda Williams) and Julie Rubels (Natasha Gregson Wagner). By deceiving Mr. DeMarco (Marco Rodríguez), a local gangster, Richard and Victoria reach Paco and the local crime boss, "Mr. A", whom they find has been Principal Doyle the entire time. Griff is told the truth about the test scores and after a brief fight, Paco, Doyle and DeMarco are arrested.
Richard (now principal of Barry High) presides over the graduation ceremony and proudly names Griff as the class valedictorian. The six main students of the film graduate (but only those six). Richard makes good on his promise to send Griff to college and is in a relationship with Victoria.
- Jon Lovitz as Richard Clark, a naïve Caucasian teacher whose main goal is to help underachieving students at Marion Barry High School succeed.
- Lovitz also plays his own mother.
- Tia Carrere as Victoria Chappell, the principal's assistant who sympathizes with Richard.
- Louise Fletcher as Principal Evelyn Doyle, who believes Richard will fail.
- Mekhi Phifer as Griff McReynolds, one of Clark's students and a former gang member who aspires to graduate high school and attend college.
- Malinda Williams as Natalie Thompson, Griff's girlfriend.
- Guillermo Díaz as Paco de la Vega al Camino Cordoba Jose Cuervo Sanchez Rodriguez Jr., Griff's former gang partner.
- Brian Hooks as Anferny Jefferson, one of Clark's students. He is a slightly dimwitted gang member who only knows of urban pop culture.
- Natasha Gregson Wagner as Julie Rubels, one of Clark's students who is a teenage mother with many children.
- Marco Rodríguez as Mr. DeMarco, a gangster who is in the midst of a shady "business" deal with Paco and another mysterious gangster known as "Mr. A".
- John Neville as Thaddeus Clark, Richard's father.
- Lexie Bigham as Two-Bags, a member of Paco's gang.
- Gil Espinoza as Alonzo, a member of Paco's gang.
- Baoan Coleman as Mou Mou Bartender
The film opened at #2 on the weekend of October 25, 1996, behind the film Sleepers. The film remained in the top 5 for the next two weekends.
The film received generally negative reviews upon its release. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 19% rating based on reviews from 16 critics, with an average rating of 4.3/10. On Metacritic it has a score of 33 based on reviews from 10 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade B+ on scale of A to F. Roger Ebert gave the film 1 stars out of 4, and said "the movie makes two mistakes: (1) It isn't very funny, and (2) it makes the crucial error of taking its story seriously and angling for a happy ending."
A soundtrack containing hip hop and R&B music was released on August 19, 1996 via Big Beat Records. The album peaked at No. 20 on the Billboard 200 and at No. 4 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and was also certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America for selling over 500,000 copies in the United States.