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Movie Review

It's good to be the prez.

Tim Timmerman, the student body president of Mount Vista High School, has the perks memorized. He struts around in his special, monogrammed president sweater. He graces the student body with his presidential charm during morning announcements. He has his very own hall pass—allowing him to perform critical presidential business unmolested by pesky hall monitors.

And man, does he do a lot of presidential business.

And just what is that presidential business? Well, presidential things, of course. If Tim's doing it, it must be, by definition, presidential. Skipping classes is super presidential. Getting lots of Cs? Verrry presidential. He represents ordinary high school students, so it's fitting that Tim gets aggressively ordinary grades. Sure, his GPA won't necessarily help him get into Yale (something he really wants), but hey, he's student body president. Surely he can talk some teachers into raising those pesky grades a letter or two.

Did we mention Tim's the student body president? President, president, president. Say it enough, and the mere word excuses just about everything, doesn't it?

Except the stuff that it doesn't. Turns out, your presidential hall pass doesn't count for much when the cops catch you car surfing with a marijuana joint in your pocket.

The joint wasn't Tim's—Principal Vogelbach even believes him on that count. But no matter: President Timmerman has proven, repeatedly, that he's not really made of the right presidential stuff. So Tim will have to face an official impeachment hearing. And in the meantime he's being stripped of his perks: no sweater, no hall pass, no nothing. Tim could become the least consequential president in American history this side of William Henry Harrison.

Worse, given Tim's aforementioned aggressively ordinary grades and the pending absence of his resume-padding presidency, his dream of going to Yale is just that: a dream.

But when one of his state's senators announces he's helping sponsor the "Hope of America" contest, in which the winner will become one of his D.C. pages, Tim realizes his dream may have legs yet. Getting chummy with a U.S. senator has a way of opening doors. And as luck would have it, rival Taft High School's student body president is the senator's daughter, Sydney.

Why, it'd be the most natural thing in the world for two student body presidents to get together and plan a mutual activity, wouldn't it? It'd be right and good and …

Oh, yeah. There's that whole suspension/impeachment thing. Well, Sydney doesn't necessarily need to know about that teensy-weensy detail about Tim's current presidential status, does she?

Yep, it's obvious: Tim Timmerman has quite the career in politics ahead of him.

Positive Elements

Tim and Sydney start out as something like photonegative twins: If Tim wants to use the presidency for his own selfish wants and goals, Sydney wants to use it as a catalyst to help both her school and the people in it. Her whole goal is to make a difference at Taft. And honestly, her do-gooding doesn't end when the bell rings, either.

Sydney's hearing is seriously impaired, so she spends a great deal of time volunteering for a local deaf school. Tim, in an effort to get closer to Sydney, winds up volunteering too. Some of Sydney's best qualities start rubbing off on the irresponsible sometime president, and Tim slowly changes from the sort of president that only Ferris Bueller could love to the sort of guy that even Principal Vogelbach could support.

[Spoiler Warning] Paradoxically, Tim's worthwhile turnaround culminates in a public admission of just how unworthy he is. He confesses to his role in vandalizing Taft with a dead deer (which is a big deal) and tells the student body that he's resigning as president and withdrawing from the Hope of America competition. Tim's admission amounts to a public confession of sin: It's only when we realize how far we've fallen that we can truly begin to climb back up.

Spiritual Content

None.

Sexual Content

Tim and Sydney's relationship takes a predictably personal turn. As they plan a multi-school dance together, the two kiss. Sydney confesses that it's her first before they smooch again. These and subsequent pucker-presses aren't so much full-on lip locks as they are gentle displays of affection.

But Sydney's not the only woman with an eye on Tim. Miss Murphy, a teacher (or perhaps administrator) at the school, inappropriately has the hots for him, too. When Tim goes to her office for guidance, she flips on some romantic music and sidles close. And at Tim's birthday party (to which Miss Murphy is strangely invited to), she gives the birthday boy salsa lessons for the two of them. (If you know anything about sensual salsa dancing, you know it's not something that high school students and teachers should be doing together.)

Tim gently rejects the salsa lessons, handing Miss Murphy off to Tim's freshman lackey, Jessop. Those two apparently become, at the very least, close dance partners: After the credits roll, we see an additional scene from the not-so-distant future where Jessop and Miss Murphy are doing sultry Salsa dancing together at a school dance.

Garrett, one of Tim's friends, ogles a cheerleader (one of several wearing short skirts). He tells Tim how "hot" she is. Later, Garrett and that cheerleader make out, though mostly off-camera. They take a break from kissing to rise up into view of the camera for a quick bit of dialogue (panting as they talk) before falling back below the lens again.

A teacher wears tops and dresses that showcase shoulder and cleavage. Bill Clinton makes several appearances in Tim's dream, making vague references to his indiscretions. (He also compliments Tim on his courage, using a slang term for the male anatomy.) We see Sydney in a one-piece bathing suit.

Violent Content

Concurrent with his quest for the Hope of America prize, Tim's also playing the so-called "Assassin's Game," wherein competitors "shoot" each other with painless pellet guns. Contestants pay a few bucks to participate, and the last one "alive" collects the cash pot. As such, Tim spends a lot of time pointing guns at classmates, pulling triggers and running away—often comically and recklessly—from his adversaries.

Tim gets beaned in the face by a tennis ball, causing a bloody nose. (He stuffs a tissue in one of his nostrils to staunch the blood.) He masterminds a scheme to place a dead deer in Taft, and we see the animal's mangled carcass. Tim later dreams of an obviously stuffed deer, sadly shaking his head. Also in a dream, someone attacks Tim with a knife. A security guard ogles a police officer's Glock pistol.

Crude or Profane Language

We hear two uses each of "b--ch" and "d--n," about half a dozen uses of the word "crap" and one possible misuse of God's name. The word "fetch" (and variations thereof) is used three or four times as a stand-in for the f-word.

Drug and Alcohol Content

A student named Garrett and some of Tim's other friends use marijuana. When Tim sees one of them beginning to light a joint, he grabs it and stuffs it in his pocket, telling the would-be toker that he needs to get off of the drug. (Ironically, police later discover the joint in Tim's pocket.)

Other Negative Elements

Garrett and his friends heckle fellow high schoolers. Tim finagles cash out of Sydney's dad. Some of Tim's friends lie to protect him, and Tim himself often acts in a fairly weasel-like manner.

Conclusion

Unless you live in Utah, you likely haven't heard of Tim Timmerman, Hope of America. Its distributor gave it a fairly narrow theatrical release initially, hoping to go wider with time.

But here's the interesting thing: Its distributor is not a traditional movie studio, but VidAngel, an online streaming service that allows customers to "buy" online versions of movies with problematic content edited out. (VidAngel is currently embroiled in a court battle over this service, and the company has also purchased advertising on Plugged In in the past.)

VidAngel isn't the first streaming service to launch original content, of course. Netflix has been doing it for years with television, and has recently been making inroads in the movie world. Rival service Amazon has been doing Netflix one better. In fact, Oscar-winning Manchester By the Sea was distributed by Amazon. And now VidAngel is plunging into the fray, too.

"When [Director] Cameron Sawyer and his team showed us the movie, and told us that the big studios had turned it down because it's too clean despite how hilarious it is, we immediately knew this was the right first project to get behind," said VidAngel CEO Neal Harmon in a press release.

It's an interesting model, and perhaps a sign of good things to come for families concerned about problematic content. Harmon believes that Tim Timmerman will be an "instant cult classic," à la Napoleon Dynamite—another clever, relatively clean film made to appeal to Utah's prevailing Mormon sensibilities.

Mind you, there's nothing overtly religious about Tim Timmerman. But there's clearly a culturally conservative perspective represented here. Kids in the film generally listen to their parents and are respectful of authority. And, for the most part, they want to do the right thing. One student even stops hanging out with a "bad influence" because his parents didn't want him to spend time with that person. Another experiences her very first kiss. For those who watch a raunchy secular comedy and wonder, "Do kids today really act like this?", this flick gives a welcome answer: "Not all kids."

But while Harmon may say that Tim Timmerman was "too clean" for secular studios, it's not quite as squeaky clean as that phrase might imply. Kids use drugs here. They swear occasionally, using the word "fetch" as an f-word stand-in. And the odd subplot involving Tim and his lovelorn teacher left me feeling uncomfortable; the post-credit conclusion to that subplot was, to me, wholly inappropriate in an age in which teacher-student dalliances make the news regularly.

Those caveats aside, however, Tim Timmerman, Hope of America mostly offers gives families a nice, watchable alternative to more salacious comedic fare.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults

Credits

Rating

PG-13

Readability Age Range

Genre

Comedy

Author

Cast

Eddie Perino as Tim Timmerman; Chelsea Maidhof as Sydney Anderson; Stephanie Drapeau as Monica Murphy; Andrew Caldwell as Garrett Stubbs; Seth Meriwether as Brandon Schlierman; Henry Monfries as Jessop; Drue Knapp as MacKenzie; Laird Macintosh as Sen. Pete Anderson

Director

Cameron Sawyer ( )

Distributor

VidAngel

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

March 3, 2017

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Paul Asay

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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