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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
dir Steve Pink
scr Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, Mark Perez
with Justin Long, Jonah Hill, Blake Lively, Maria Thayer, Adam Herschman, Columbus Short, Lewis Black, Anthony Heald, Travis Van Winkle, Mark Derwin, Ann Cusack, Hannah Marks
release US 18.Aug.06, UK 6.Oct.06
06/US Universal 1h30
College boys: Long and Hill
There are several surprisingly sharp moments lurking within this silly college comedy, but you have to pay attention to find them. Otherwise it's pretty contrived and stupid.
Bartleby (Long) has failed to get into a university, much to the disappointment of his parents (Derwin and Cusack), so he sets up a fake website and sends himself an acceptance letter. Then his friends (Thayer, Herschman and Short) join him. But they're going to need somewhere for Mom and Dad to drop them off, so they rent an abandoned mental hospital and dress it up. Then losers all over the country find the website, and soon they have a full student body and a lot of trouble on the horizon.
The invented university is called South Harmon Institute of Technology, and the acronym is about as subtle as the humour gets. This is a deeply simplistic movie, which doesn't have the convictions of its premise (clearly it was contractually obliged to be a PG-13, which defeats the whole purpose): it's far too clean cut for its anarchic themes. And it's far too formulaic for us to ever doubt that it will end happily with everyone learning Important Life Lessons.
At least Long is effortlessly charming, carrying us through even the most ill-conceived plot twists. He's funny and so relentlessly perky that we can't help but like him, even if nothing he does is remotely logical. And the supporting cast is also sharp and witty--Hill as the buddy who got into the posh university but realises that his slacker friends are more important, Lively as the society girl who blossoms when she drops out of society, Black as the has-been who discovers that he might still be worth something.
Amid the corny cliches, the writers have buried several genuinely hilarious throwaway lines, scattered through the film to keep our brains from turning to mush as the movie builds to the requisite big showdown finale before the state accreditation board and the villainous snoots. If you have any doubt what's going to happen, it's been too long since you watched Revenge of the Nerds.
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© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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