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School Daze (1988)

Spike Lee followed his successful debut She’s Gotta Have It (1986) with this musical comedy set in the all-black white-financed Mission College, poking satirical fun at campus capers while tackling class and colour distinctions which divide the college into two mutually exclusive categories: the haughty, lighter-skinned students who are called “wannabees” (they “wannabee” as bourgeois and white as possible) and the darker-skinned youths who embrace blackness.

Upwardly mobile and politically conservative, the wannabees are led by the dictatorial Julian ‘Big Brother Almighty’ Eaves (Giancarlo Esposito). Demanding that Mission College divest itself of its investments in South Africa, the darker-skinned kids rally around a moral banner raised by student activist Dap Dunlap (Laurence Fishburne).

Besides directing, writing and producing the film, Lee turns in a brief but finely tuned comedic performance as Half Pint, a hapless fraternity pledge who is caught and almost crushed between his loyalties to his activist cousin Dap and Julian, the supreme commander of the prestigious Gamma Phi Gamma frat.

Besides being far too long, though, the film is too fragmented as it shifts from serious stinging commentary to overly lavish musical production numbers.

Overkill abounds in a 1940s musical number set in a beauty salon where the women wage an all-out song and dance battle over the best way to wear their hair, natural or processed. It’s painfully self-indulgent.

Ossie Davis is superb in a bit part as a football coach delivering a hilarious locker room speech to his winless team. And singer Phyllis Hyman looks spectacular and sings beautifully in a scintillating uncredited cameo.

Samuel L Jackson appears in an early small role outside a chicken shop.

Dap Dunlap
Laurence Fishburne
Julian ‘Big Brother Almighty’ Eaves
Giancarlo Esposito
Jane Toussaint
Tisha Campbell-Martin
Rachel Meadows
President McPherson
Joe Seneca
Odrie McPherson
Ellen Holly
Cedar Cloud
Art Evans
Coach Odom
Ossie Davis
Da Fella Grady
Bill Nunn
Da Fella Monroe
James Bond III
Da Fella Jordan
Branford Marsalis
Da Fella Edge
Kadeem Hardison
Da Fella Booker T
Eric Payne
Gammite Half-Pint
Spike Lee
Gammite Doo-Doo Breath
Anthony Thompkins
Gammite Double Rubber
Guy Killum
Gammite Mustafa
Dominic Hoffman
Gammite Yoda
Roger Guenveur Smith
Gammite Sir Nose
Kirk Taylor
Gammite Mussolini
Kevin Rock
Gammite Slim Daddy
Erik Dellums
A.J. Johnson
Cassi Davis
Michelle Bailey
Samuel L. Jackson
Edward G. Bridges
Dennis Abrams
Albert B. Cooper IV
Virgil Cloyd
Gregg Burge
Cinqué Lee
Kasi Lemmons
Toni Ann Johnson
Paula Birth
Tracy Robinson

Spike Lee