Dylan Sprouse? He’s so sweet, “The Suite Life” blond and tanned and beautiful and all.
How could he be the Evil Student, psychotically-intense, given “bullying” his teacher to get better grades in “Dismissed?”
As Lucas Ward, he kid’s on the money, I have to say, creepy, coiled-too-tight, utterly amoral, the sort who’d write a paper defending the “perfection” of “The Final Solution” and believe it, who considers the treacherous Iago the “hero” of Shakespeare’s “Othello.”
Something’s a little off from the start, showing up mid-term, doing ALL the class assignments he’d missed at his previous school, flattering Mr. Butler, his teacher (Kent Osborne), strolling in and dominating the chess club at “small-minded” Morristown High.
Lucas is the sort of smart-kid/smooth talker who’d be any teacher’s dream, especially one whose students seem bored with his lectures on “Crime and Punishment.
Lucas speaks up in class, sharing brilliant insights like an automaton who memorized the forward to this book or that one. The sports jackets he wears to class, the precise way he uses language. He doesn’t write papers, he prepares dissertations.
But Lucas doesn’t react to class disruptions well, even from a jock twice his size. Something about the way he suggests he’ll “jab a pen in your windpipe” convinces the offender to shut up.
He doesn’t handle being “second seed” of the chess team well, and being second to the fellow who happens to be his lab partner in Chemistry class is just a little too convenient. Accidents happen, after all.
“You know, Beethoven composed some of his best work after he went deaf.”
And he isn’t keen on a B+ on his “Othello” paper.
“Iago is the most honest character in the entire play!”
As charming as he’s been, when the newly-enthused-to-be-teaching-thanks-to-this engaged kid Mr. Butler crosses him, the knives come out — just figuratively at first.
“Mr. Butler, where did you get your degree?”
“Dismissed” doesn’t play up the cat-and-mouse game of Lucas’s tactics against his offending teacher, to its detriment. We don’t wonder what Lucas is capable of. It’s as plain as the Hitlerian flop to his forelock.
Brian McCauley’s script shows this nightmare from the victim’s point of view, Mr. Butler’s application to work at a local college sabotaged, we see his growing irritation and then fear at what Lucas will pull next.
The screenplay shortchanges the characters outside the central conflict, narrowing the focus and turning in on itself with a laughably melodramatic third act.
What, tying the teacher’s wife to the railroad tracks never occurred to these guys?
And Osborne, a writer/producer and voice actor on cartoons like “Adventure Time” and “Phineas and Herb,” is more adequate as the baffled, over-matched foil, than compelling.
But Sprouse? He shows us something, here. It’s not a flawless performance, but it is creepily believable. Has Blumhouse called him in? Because they should.
MPAA Rating: TV-14
Cast:Dylan Sprouse, Rae Gray, Kent Osborne, Mitchell Edwards, Chris Bauer, Randall Park, Alycia Delmore
Credits:Directed by Benjamin Arfmann, script by Brian McCauley. A Making Horror release.
Running time: 1:27