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The Lens: 'St. Trinian's' - pop go the British

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 9, 2009 - It's unfortunate that there are so many drugs and sexual references in "St. Trinian's." In every other respect, it perfectly resembles the kind of kids-rules hyperactivity of anything produced by Nickelodeon or the Disney Channel.

The premise, as in the earlier films, is a simple one: Take a run-down girl's school where the students are untamed and undisciplined monsters, present some sort of obstacle from the outside world (in this version, it's the hoary old bank-threatening-to-foreclose-the-school threat) and let the little hellions have at it, outwitting every adult in sight. It's noisy, jarring and generally unfunny, though it settles down a bit in the last 30 minutes when the girls simultaneously rig a television quiz show (hosted by Steven Fry) and stage a high-tech heist of Vermeer's "Girl With a Pearl Earring."

In addition to the unflappable Fry, who could bring a touch of class to a remake of "Porky's 2," an assortment of well-known cast members pop in for appearances too big to be called cameos but too small to work up much of a sweat.

Russell Brand, who plays a low-level crook whose enterprises are abetted by the schoolgirls, is frequently described as a comedian. After seeing this and other appearances, I still can't figure out why.

Rupert Everett, who also served as one of the producers, repeats Alastair Sim's dual-role trick of the '50s films, playing the loopy headmistress, Miss Fritton, as well as her unsavory brother.

Colin Firth, good as always, has the unrewarding bad guy/authority-figure role as a petty minister of education bent on closing the school.

Most of the cast are required to do little more than strike poses, which directors Oliver Parker and Barnaby Thompson cut to match the rhythm of several wretched synthetic Girl Power pop songs, but Firth and Everett give the film more energy than it actually deserves. They actually provide the film's funniest moment, though it's only part of the soundtrack during the end credits, where they can be heard in a duet of the 1978 disco hit "Love Is In the Air."

The Lens is the blog of Cinema St. Louis, hosted by the Beacon.