Review Date: January 11, 2002
Director: Jake Kasdan
Writer: Mike White
Producers: Scott Rudin, David Gale
Colin Hanks as Shaun Brumder
Schyler Fisk as Ashley
Jack Black as Lance Brumder
An Orange County surfer dude discovers his calling as a writer, drops his beach habits, devotes himself to his passion and applies to Standford University. But when a guidance counselor at his school sends in the wrong transcript, he gets rejected from the college, but doesn't give up. That same night, he drives up to the campus with his stoner brother and pro-environmental main squeeze, and attempts to set things straight.
Despite an extremely short runtime (85 minutes, tops!), this movie packs in the fun with Jack Black at his Jack-Blackest, a very impressive showing by Tom Hanks' kid, Colin, groovy tunes, an interesting plot, some goofy over-the-top situations and best of all...sincerity in a teen flick? That's right, kids...if you're looking for piss and fart jokes (actually, there was that one urine gag), go elsewhere, but if you're looking for something with a heart, something with laughs, something with a point...this might be the "teen" movie for which you've been searching. More adult than you'd think, this is basically about the point in one's life where the future is bright, the hopes are high and the opportunities are grand...only...what will you do? Now unlike many people out there, the lead character in this film actually knows what he wants to do: he wants to write! So he sets his goals and charges after them, but with a drunk mom, a stoner bro and an a-hole dad...the guy obviously runs into a few snags. Goofiness ensues, but the film never really sways from its lead character's serious commitment, or his girlfriend's obvious love for him. It's a great little story which is sure to engage anyone who might be having trouble with the next step in their own lives, and certainly anyone looking for some decent laughs. Although I must preface that last part with a note: if you don't enjoy Jack Black's "type of humor", you might become somewhat annoyed by this film. Black is as over-the-top as ever here, spending half of his screen-time bouncing around in his dirty, baggy underwear (funny shtuff!). The guy's facial expressions, physical comedy and "portly" figure alone...just crack me up!
But believe me, if you thought the main three stars were the only "names" in this film (which I did), you'd be highly mistaken. It seems as though every scene contained either a small role or cameo by a known actor or director, including Ben Stiller, John Lithgow, Catherine O'Hara, Kevin Kline, Garry Marshall, Harold Ramis, Lily Tomlin and Chevy Chase. Even the screenwriter of the film, Mike White, gets into the mix as a nerdy teacher early on. Sure, I probably connected to this film a little more than the next person because I too consider myself a writer and I too understood the lead character's desperate plight. In fact, I almost broke down like a beeyatch when the boy's revered writer actually read his story and called it "great". I'm telling you...I'm not sure if it was the acting in that scene or my own unfilled desires coming to the forefront, but I felt for that bastard, right then and there. Whooph! But I digress. The bottom line with this movie is that it does have some over-the-top characters and situations, but the core of its story is sincere, even though you can't help wondering why this kid didn't just ask his school to admit to their mistake in the first place and take it from there (but then, there'd be no movie, of course). See it for Jack Black, see it for the solid performances from Hanks and his cutey-pie girlfriend played by Schyler Fisk (Sissy Spacek's daughter-- I thought she looked familiar), and see it if you're looking for a little more serious-minded than your standard "teen" comedy. Oops, I almost forgot to mention another "offspring of the stars" in the film, director Jake Kasdan, son of Lawrence Kasdan, big-time screenwriter of such films as THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, amongst others.
(c) 2017 Berge Garabedian