As a lifelong Dallas resident, I was sincerely hoping Highland Park would be a scathing satire of the city’s richest neighborhood. Sadly, it’s a so-called dramedy about teachers in a failing public school in the Detroit area.
There’s plenty of interesting stories to tell about the residents of a dying city. Unfortunately, it only tells one story, and a predictable one at that.
Several of the school’s teachers (Rockmond Dunbar, John Carroll Lynch), including the principal (Billy Burke) always play the Mega Millions, using the same numbers week in, week out. After 12 years, the principal is done with the hopeless enterprise, especially because he has to fire his friends due to budget cuts.
But their luck turns around when their numbers are finally called to the tune of $250 million. Even though some of the band of brothers blow their winnings on extravagant vehicles and trips, the principal decides to use some of his winnings to restore the school’s budget, since the hoidy-toidy mayor (Parker Posey) takes a flippant attitude to the dire straits the school is in.
If you’ve ever seen a movie, documentary or TV show about lottery winners, you know this doesn’t end well for anyone. Unfortunately, Highland Park never wants to venture to the darker version of this story. It tries to keep things light, but just ends up moving through its obvious plot in the dullest fashion possible.
As the film goes on, it finds newer ways to waste its talented cast, to the point where it’s easy to imagine the cast switching roles would have slightly improved the movie. John Carroll Lynch shouldn’t be the blue-collar football coach. Rockmond Dunbar would have been better. And the latter shouldn’t be the mild-mannered theater teacher. The former would have made more sense. And that doesn’t even begin to account for how little Parker Posey — so great at playing a bitch — commits to her role as the felonious mayor.
The biggest void in the cast has to be the sleepwalking Billy Burke in the lead role. He’s just the wrong person to play the clever and sarcastic but good-hearted guy. It doesn’t help that he speaks in political soundbites like, “The banks got billions and we got nothing.”
There’s a little bit of satisfaction in the ending, seeing the rich jerks get their comeuppance, but it was such a bore to get through the joy is short-lived.