Dismissed for Dylan Sprouse will surely make him one of the few Disney Channel alumni whose talent deserves to be taken seriously.
|David Butler||Kent Osborne|
|Mr. Sheldon||Randall Park|
|Alex||Matthew J Evans|
At a public high school, Mr. David Butler toils away dealing with his indifferent students. The kind who will plagiarize flagrantly and some teachers, like Mr. Sheldon, almost feel like these kids trust and rely more on Google than them. But then Lucas walks into Mr. Butler’s life. He is a kid passionate about English, which is what Mr. Butler teaches, and basically gives dissertations as papers. Also, he is into chess and with him noting his mom is gone and dad often busy, Mr. Butler speaks to his wife about maybe mentoring the kid.
But then the cracks in what many see as the perfect student begin to appear. The first thing is circumstantial for the cast but clear to us when he causes an explosion in Mr. Sheldon’s class which takes out Alex, the first seed for a chess competition. One in which Mr. Butler put Lucas second. Something he didn’t hold against Mr. Butler for Alex may have been beaten by Lucas, but he does have seniority. So Mr. Butler didn’t take the hit for that.
However, with getting a B+ on a paper dealing with Othello, just because Mr. Butler disagreed with his few centimeter thick interpretation of Iago as a hero, so begins a serious issue. One in which, arguably, Mr. Butler causes by being petty. Not to excuse what we see Lucas do, which includes manipulating the impressionable Becca, but as pompous and psychotic as Lucas seems, you do have to look at Mr. Butler for throwing fuel to the fire.
As you’ll see from what follows this highlight, I pretty much got bewitched by Sprouse as Lucas. Despite him maiming and killing people, and the movie not doing much to make you feel bad for Lucas, it even makes you wonder if maybe he killed his mom, Sprouse brings this unwritten complexity to his performance. The kind which makes me really take a hard look at myself. For as I wrote what is below this, I realized I sounded just like newscasters when describing a domestic terrorist. I’m making mental health excuses, bringing up things his father should have done, Mr. Butler should have done, and really avoiding placing any real blame on Lucas. Even though he chose how to react. Really speaking wonders.
To the point, you have to wonder, even though Dylan Sprouse didn’t major in Acting, but Video Game Design at NYU [E! Online – External], did he perhaps take acting classes? Because I still very much feel in the same ilk of James Lipton in this Hollywood Reporter interview [YouTube (Relevance to my point starts at 4:23) – External]. Of which, for a lot of actors you can recognize talent and charisma, but they lack technique. So, like for the Bella Thornes and other actors who appear a lot on Wherever I Look and get criticized each time, as much as they have a draw, there is a constant disappointment because they are learning on the job.
With Sprouse however, while he has been working since he and his twin brother were in diapers, as many other child actors, what you see in Dismissed is my understanding of technique. The calculated way Lucas is, even as he unravels, allows Sprouse’s natural talent to be amplified by his ability to use technique. Thus making it so, unlike his contemporaries, he doesn’t have to rely on being handsome, his charisma, or even his fame. Those things, rather than be the foundation, are simply his advertising. Meanwhile, his talent is the foundation and the technique is what allows what I expect to be a strong filmography in the coming years, to be a skyscraper standing strong.
Well, if he continues to choose roles which both challenge him and he works hard to master. So while he may not have majored in acting, I’d argue him completing a college Bachelor’s shows why so many employers see it as so important. For it presents you have work ethic, can handle deadlines, and also can deal with both positive and negative feedback. Also, the pressures involved with getting something done and seeing it through.
Why Was Lucas Going to Public School?
From what we are told by Principal Jane Fermont, Lucas has a history of being a straight A student and he used to run multiple clubs at his old school. On top of that, even if you want to factor in his father supposedly being busy all the time, which we don’t really see enough to believe, I’m sure Lucas could have set everything up and just needed his dad to sign. Maybe show up for the interview to get in.
Most of the Issues Stemmed from David Being Petty
Let me first recognize I know none of Lucas’ reactions can truly be defended if this was real life. However, in terms of entertainment, I blame David for most of what happens in the film. Starting with Lucas’ Othello paper. Now, the problem to me is that I don’t think Mr. Butler was taking Lucas as seriously as he should have. How can you give a person who writes a novel a B+? Much less, not clearly note within the paper why? Then, to add insult to injury, not only not explain why but make it seem just because you don’t agree with him that is why he got the grade he got? On top of that, not even give him a chance to improve his grade?
Now, in David’s defense, he is a public school teacher which means he is likely overworked so having Lucas do a rewrite, or a different paper, would have probably taken out whatever free time he has. Yet, at the same time, considering how most of his students, outside of maybe Becca, didn’t make his job that fulfilling, to not at least properly challenge Lucas I thought was unfair.
But then David makes things worse. After Lucas, admittedly, did some messed up things like slashing David’s tires and ruined him getting to teach in a college, all circumstantial, he decides to give Lucas an F for the semester. Now, considering the work Lucas does, there is no reason what so ever he can give to justify the F. Lucas participates in class, hands things in on time, and the only thing he can be knocked for is maybe writing more pages than David set as the max. That’s about it. So, considering, and this is me writing in details that aren’t necessarily there, the amount of pressure young people have to get into good colleges or else feel they may have horrible lives, I can kind of understand why Lucas went ballistic.
I mean, just look at his dad. He, and again this is me filling in details inspired by Sprouse’s performance, his dad reportedly works all the time and his only pastime is drinking. Whatever relationship he could have had with his son probably left once the mom died and more than likely he buried himself in work to deal with that. Only coming out of his heaps of folders to bail out Lucas and rarely for any other reason. Do you think Lucas would want that? To be slaving away and can’t even enjoy the things you supposedly work so hard to have? Yeah, Lucas doesn’t know what he wants to do but knows Harvard, an Ivy League school which just the association would set him up for life, is what he needs.
So, with David not being the adult, acting rather paranoid, and deciding to take Lucas down a notch without proof was very petty. For, again, while we know what went down, all David had was some SAT words to go by. No security camera footage of Lucas doing anything, no teacher witnessing Lucas doing anything, just David on a witch hunt.
Of which, even when he gets the upper hand, he doesn’t stop being petty. He decides to rub it in Lucas’ face and it really makes you think, after a certain point, maybe David didn’t deserve that university job. For if he couldn’t handle someone on the edge like Lucas, with “Nothing to lose” how would he deal with a college student who has a mountain of debt, maybe a pass or become a failure mindset, and needs more flexibility than David wouldn’t even give a high school kid?
On The Fence
Lucas’s Father & His Influence
In the “Eulogy” episode of Better Things, the character Sam Fox notes how acting often is bringing what isn’t written to the screen. Basically turning a bad script into something good. When it comes to Mr. Ward, Lucas’ father, and the way Chris Bauer plays him, arguably you don’t get that. Unlike how Sprouse adds details which weren’t in the script, leading you to draw some conclusions, we don’t get that from Mr. Ward. There is no possibility that maybe he pushed Lucas to the point he needs to go to Harvard or life is over. We don’t really know if he has really pushed to be close to the boy before he started causing trouble, and just not knowing if he has any influence at all makes you wish he was as busy as Lucas makes him sound.
Plus, with the way he talks about Lucas, you don’t get the same vibe like in the film Rudderless, where the dad knows his son is twisted and flawed, but he still sees this humanity. All we get is some weak, “He’s my son” nonsense. And then, later on, him killing himself over the guilt of covering up his son’s tracks. Of which, considering his dad is a criminal defense attorney, it would have been nice to add if maybe Lucas learned some of his tricks from him – at the very least.
Overall: Positive (Worth Seeing) – Recommended
Considering the film has you root for the psychopath, damn near, I don’t think there is a need to go into why this is labeled positive. However, since so few films get recommended, let me explain. The recommendation comes from how much of an example Sprouse is. His performance to me deserves to be put on a pedestal. For while, as Bella Thorne showed in You Get Me, that psychopaths maybe the easiest to play when trying to test yourself, maybe show what you can do, Sprouse did not make this seem like he was testing himself. What we got out of him was a statement. The kind which, if any other actor played Lucas, I could imagine writing this off as a mixed labeled film and it just being part of that humongous pool.
Hence the positive label and recommendation. I feel just like the “Eulogy” episode keeps getting referenced, and Rudderless does from time to time, this will likely join them in being a film I point to for examples and comparisons. Since I’m so in awe right now that it makes it a shame Sprouse was one of the sole things which made this film great.