NOW IN THEATERS! Director/writer Leo Milano brings a comedic take on his education in an all-boys high school in the Midwest in The Crusades. The fictionalized version of Milano in the film, Leo Grecco (Rudy Pankow), and his friends Sean (Khalil Everage) and Jack (Ryan Ashton) are faced with changes coming to their school that will upend their groove. They decide to have the greatest weekend of their lives before the changes hit Monday.
The Crusades is a kinder, gentler Superbad, updated for a new generation, and set in a somewhat more upscale environment. Leo is a variant of an archetype defined by Ryan Reynolds in Van Wilder, Jeff Winger (Joel McHale) in Community, and Jeremy Piven in Old School, just to name a few of a very deep list. He’s the intelligent, sarcastic kid who gets in trouble but never in any serious way and is secretly sweet and serious. Jack is the derpy, clueless big kid (a la Belushi, Candy, and so on). Sean is the eternal sidekick delivering the straight lines. We’ve seen these characters repeatedly, and for good reason, they work as completely relatable. Leo has a horrific crush on his gorgeous Italian tutor, Miss Kerpial (Anna Maiche), and struggles with the language just to impress her.
There’s no story without an enemy, and in The Crusades, that foe takes the form of a cross-town rival school, St. Matthews. On the eve of a possible merger with St. Matthews, our boys face the possibility of now having to re-establish the social pecking order with stronger, meaner men from the other school. The overall vibe of the film arises from constant locker-room talk and boasting, which is par for the course at an all-male school. The lack of women in their social fabric has left these guys with a severe case of arrested development. Miss Kerpial is the sex object for an entire school.
“The lack of women in their social fabric has left these guys with a severe case of arrested development.”
As the weekend kicks off, our intrepid trio of well-meaning goofballs spends the weekend working through various situations, mostly involving a house party, school girls, and their psychopathic ex-boyfriends. When the sun comes up Monday morning, they are battered and bruised, but the question remains: what of their future with school and females?
One of the best performances comes from Nicolas Turturro, making an appearance as manic weight training Coach Kreiger. It’s been a while since Turturro has turned up, but he chews the scenery here and steals every scene he’s in. His moments in the weight room are hilarious.
In an interview with US99, Milano said, “I feel like growing up, I really couldn’t relate to a lot of the high school movies and the teenage movies that Hollywood put out. Growing up in the Midwest, there are no lavish mansion parties or pool parties. Then, when I got to college, I quickly realized that my experience in an all-boys school was nothing like the average high school experience…I think it’s a movie for everyone, believe it or not.
Milano speaks true. The more specific the situation depicted, the more generally the metaphors apply. The Crusades updates a moment that comes for every generation, with heart, style, and a few surprises. The boys make their first steps toward adulthood as the weekend comes to an end. The performances of the three leads (and all of the cast) are all solid and authentic, and the film looks and sounds great.