"Tim Timmerman, Hope of America" — 2 1/2 stars — Eddie Perino, Chelsea Maidhof, Andrew Caldwell, Stephanie Drapeau, Drue Knapp; PG-13 (brief drug content and suggestive material); in general release
"Tim Timmerman, Hope of America" gets better as it goes along, and is at its best when it uses its own quirky voice rather than trying to echo its superior influences.
"Tim Timmerman" is the story of a smug teenager who learns a few lessons about life while trying to con his way into a prestigious internship. Tim (Eddie Perino) is the reigning student body officer of Mount Vista High School in Utah, a slick charmer and underachiever who has his heart set on attending Yale University. His grades are nowhere near Ivy League levels, but opportunity presents itself in the form of a deaf rival SBO named Sydney (Chelsea Maidhof).
When Sydney tries to pitch Tim on a joint-service project between their schools, the social climber blows her off. Then he finds out that Sydney's father (Laird Macintosh) is a U.S. senator, a Yale alumnus and just happens to be sponsoring a competition called "Hope of America" that involves a political internship.
Unsurprisingly, Tim has a change of heart on the service project. But he still has to deal with the effects of his unofficial extracurricular activities — including a prank on Sydney's school involving a dead deer — which have put Tim's presidency in jeopardy.
Tim is intended to be a 1990s Beehive State answer to Matthew Broderick's Ferris Bueller, the uber-popular slacker whose big-screen "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" in 1986 inspired irreverent and not-so-irreverent teenagers across the country. "Tim Timmerman's" marketing openly advertises the allusion, and in one scene, students actually mount a "Save Tim Timmerman" campaign.
Director Cameron Sawyer's film is also an unabashed tribute to early 1990s popular culture, that awkward flannel-clad window between the end of the '80s and the dawn of the internet age. It's all there: the haircuts, the jean shorts and, in one memorable scene, the Sony Car Discman, complete with cassette tape adapter and frequent skips. But cinematically, Sawyer seems more influenced by the 1980s John Hughes films that the class of 1995 grew up watching.
While the influences and references are entertaining, "Tim Timmerman" is at its best when Sawyer follows his own lead, such as in intermittent fantasy/dream sequences where Tim takes heartfelt, saxophone-accompanied advice from President Bill Clinton (played by spot-on imitator Timothy Watters). When "Tim Timmerman" tries to set itself up as a neo-Bueller, all you can see is how Bueller is better. But when "Tim Timmerman" tries to be itself and focuses on its own story, it improves greatly.
Another of "Tim Timmerman's" high points is a subplot about a game of assassin the SBO is playing with his fellow classmates, a last-man-standing competition where kids have to hunt each other down with plastic toy guns. For most of the movie, the subplot is little more than a running gag, but a sudden plot twist quickly turns it into one of the movie's best sequences.
Overall, "Tim Timmerman: Hope of America" is a quirky but flawed film that is headed in the right direction, just good enough to get you to look forward to the filmmaker's next effort. It may not be at the Ferris Bueller level, but Sawyer's piece of 1990s nostalgia ends on a hopeful note.
"Tim Timmerman, Hope of America" is rated PG-13 for brief drug content and suggestive material; running time: 94 minutes.