A shameless ANIMAL HOUSE (1978) knockoff by way of FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF (1986), this college comedy aims low and misses often. Bartleby Gaines (Justin Long) is gliding through life on the principle that he'd rather not — not study, work, plan or do much of anything except scam the system and mouth off. The result of his assiduous underachievement: While other graduating seniors sort through college acceptance letters, Bartleby racks up a perfect eight-for-eight rejection score. Since it's never occurred to his middle-class parents (Mark Derwin, Ann Cusack) that Bartleby wouldn't attend college (where were they, exactly, when he was squandering four years of high school?), he fakes an acceptance letter from an imaginary institute of higher learning. For plausibility, Bartleby enlists the help of brainy fat boy Sherman (Jonah Hill), who's off to prestigious Harmon College, to create a website for the nonexistent South Harmon Institute of Technology, whose initials succinctly embody the film's sensibility. Word gets around, and soon Bartleby's out-of-luck friends — washed-up athlete Hands (Columbus Short), burnout Glen (Adam Herschman) and over-stressed Rory (Maria Thayer), who was wait-listed by the only school to which she applied — are also proud recipients of Harmon Institute letters. When Bartleby's parents want to see the place, he and his coconspirators convert an abandoned mental hospital into a Potemkin college; when they demand to meet the dean, he casts failed teacher-turned-shoe salesman Ben (Lewis Black) as an avuncular, if nutty, administrator. And then the ruse really snowballs — thanks to Sherman's one-click registration button, South Harmon Institute of Technology is besieged by real incoming freshmen — skate punks, party girls, head cases, strippers, and sundry rejects grasping at the brass ring of parental approval, frat parties and the cachet of being a grad. Worse, Harmon University's snooty dean (Anthony Heald) sics his frat-boy goons on the upstart school, paving the way for a showdown between the forces of repressive authority and free-spirited invention. If all this were anarchically funny, its shambling idiocy could be forgiven. But with the exception of some smartly delivered one-liners, it's not, and actor/writer/first-time director Steve Pink is at a loss to haul the material out of its doldrums. On the plus side, Long is smarmily charismatic (though his work in high-profile Apple commercials makes the ubiquity of Macs in the movie feel especially craven), while Blake Lively, who has the angular, unforced sensuality of a goofier Ellen Barkin, is the charming love interest.
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- Released: 2006
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: A shameless ANIMAL HOUSE (1978) knockoff by way of FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF (1986), this college comedy aims low and misses often. Bartleby Gaines (Justin Long) is gliding through life on the principle that he'd rather not — not study, work, plan or do muc… (more)