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In the hallowed halls of St. Sebastian's Quiet Academy for Disreputable Youth, things are indeed quiet, probably because no one's allowed to do anything. The boys drift mournfully around, attend 'classes' where they act out doubtful morality plays, and are forced to wear identical outfits of tan pants and light blue shirts. One character plays music on a boom box and I was shocked they allowed such goings-on. If the kids only wore darker clothes it would be like there was constantly a funeral in progress.

Isaac (Bennett Kirschner) is especially unhappy at St. Sebastian's, since he's the prime target for bully Greg (Max Carpenter) and his gang of boys. They play horrible jokes on him, often forcing him to find other, uncomfortable places to sleep. Menacing glances and implied threats fly, but all of this manages to happen strangely calmly and yes, quietly, as even in the middle of a free-for-all fist fight, no one really makes any noise, not even to hurl insults.

In between fights, Issac has the headmaster (Timothy J. Cox) telling him that he has no character. This means he's on the same list as France, jazz music, and Charles Manson, whereas things like baseball and Strom Thurmond (!) do have character. Of course, the headmaster is almost certainly the person writing the painfully bad morality plays, so what can you expect? The school nurse (Chelsea Marino) gently urges Isaac to behave and try to fit in, but he knows this isn't the place for him. He just has to figure a way out.

Like all good satires, it's funny and horribly depressing at the same time. The headmaster might say all the right and proper things, but his idea of a "suitable outlet" for the boys is very different from the sort of suitable outlet he allows himself. And the offhand cruelty of Greg and the other boys is all too realistic as they wait out their time at the school, because you know it isn't actually helping any of them.

Yet it's also an enjoyable watch since there's a wry humor about the film as the boys each find their own ways to cope. Even Greg seems to be a bully mainly because he has so little else to do. It reminded me of a film called Winter Vacation, where kids take each others' lunch money just to pass the time. And while I wouldn't exactly call the ending of Trouble happy, Isaac's situation is at least different by the end, and I suspect that's all most of the school's inmates really want -- a little change.

The headmaster lectures Issac. Sorry kid, but you just don't have any character.


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