It’s surprising how “Three O’ Clock High” is about much more than a kid who gets himself in deep with a bully in high school. Deep down while it’s definitely a dark comedy about high school, it’s also about facing your problems. What “Three O’ Clock High” is ultimately about is that bad day that everyone has, and that horrific revelation that if something bad is going to happen to you, it’s going to happen to you, and most times you can really do nothing but try to get through the storm as neatly as possible.
Director Phil Joanou pictures “Three O’ Clock High” as a waking nightmare in the ultimate bad day that simply will not end. Casey Siemaszko is very good as normal high school student Jerry who is generally in well standing with his teachers and has taken every opportunity to remain invisible in his school. When his friend asks him to profile new student Buddy Revell for a profile in the school newspaper, Jerry takes the shot. He unfortunately crosses paths with Buddy in the bathroom, and a simple request for an interview takes a turn for the worst when Jerry pats Buddy’s shoulder. One rule about Buddy: never touch him.
Buddy responds violently to Jerry and challenges him to a fight after school, insisting that there is nothing he can do or say to prevent the fight from happening in front of the entire student body. Before long, the word spreads, and Jerry begins looking for every possible way to avoid the fight, no matter how absurd it may be. From hiring a jock to man handle Buddy, to flirting with his teacher, Jerry really digs himself in a deeper hole, with no chance of avoiding Buddy’s fists. Much of “Three O’ Clock High” resembles a lot of the surreal high school fantasy films like “Risky Business” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” except Jerry isn’t enjoying this day. And he simply can’t find a way to avoid being throttled. Buddy is kept enigmatic from minute one, with his reputation based mostly on urban legends from the students that escalates in to something monstrous sooner than Jerry realizes.
Richard Tyson is great as the quintessential bully who really hates Jerry inexplicably, and is very anxious to pummel him. What’s worse is that a lot of the trouble that character Jerry goes through in the film could have and should have been avoided, if he would just stop being his own worst enemy. It’s true that Jerry is a victim of a bully, but much of it is snowballed from his confrontation with Buddy Revell in a bathroom that starts out as an awkward meeting and turns in to a violent throw down. If Jerry would simply face that sometimes problems in life have to be met head on, he probably wouldn’t have become such a criminal, destroying every ethic and principle he’d established in the school.
Beyond that, the meeting, for better or for worse, gives Jerry a chance to take risks and realize that there’s no stopping the inevitable. Though he’s the protagonist, Jerry comes off very entitled, and eventually has to suffer for the fact that not only does he get himself in to trouble, but he also does everything but face the problem and try to resolve it as best as he can. Sometimes there’s just no reasoning with the Buddy Revell’s of the world. “Three O’ Clock High” is a very unique and entertaining high school comedy with an important message, and it’s one eighties fans should definitely check out if they haven’t already.