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Getting In Reviews

Despite the prurient punning of its title, this direct-to-video black comedy about an ambitious pre-med student is a few notches above the lowest common denominator. Resourcefully scripted and sleekly packaged, it generally exceeds expectations in spite of a few detours into coarse college humor. Following generations of his ancestors, Gabriel Higgs (Stephen Mailer) expects admission into Johns Hopkins Medical School. After he blows his finals through a nervous mistake, the poor little rich boy conspires to keep his disgrace a secret from his overbearing parents (Len Cariou and Christine Baranski). Thanks to his pal Rom (Dave Chappelle), an agoraphobic computer whiz, he obtains a copy of the university's waiting list; then he sets out to bribe the five students ahead of him. What he doesn't understand is that another student is willing to kill to move up toward admission. After Gabriel buys off Randall Burns (Matthew Perry) with tuition money advanced by his folks, Burns is incinerated in a chem lab fire. Robbing his own estate of an heirloom portrait, Gabriel bribes Amanda Morel (Calista Flockhart), who subsequently expires from eating a poisoned mushroom pizza. When he falls in love with potential rival Kirby Watts (Kristy Swanson), Gabriel is understandably relieved to discover that she plans to accept a scholarship elsewhere. Gabriel becomes the unwitting dupe of Rupert Grimm (Andrew McCarthy), who, scheming to move up the ladder himself, has rigged each murder to implicate Gabriel. By the time Rupert kills the third person on the list (Rahni Turpin), Gabriel is a wanted man. Rupert tries to electrocute Kirby, but Rom leaves his cloister and helps Gabriel gain entry into Kirby's dorm. Rupert, thwarted in the nick of time, jumps out the window. Reconciled with Kirby, who forgives him for his bribery scam, Gabriel ignores his family tradition and finds peace as a botany professor. Despite some missteps--e.g., the childish cruelty of a scene involving rat mazes, the caricaturing of Gabriel's parents, a general failure to address the morality of Gabriel's scheme--GETTING IN consistently mines bitter laughter from a serious subject. A deft satire of the quest for the "right" school, it's equally successful as comedy and as thriller. Indeed, this fiendishly amusing revenge lampoon stirs up fond memories of THEATRE OF BLOOD and THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES. McCarthy gives a silken impersonation of villainy that surpasses his previous screen work; it's an intriguing creation, a yuppie monster-in-the-making with some of the baby-fat still visible. Swanson is radiant enough to leave any romantic lead tongue-tied; Mailer is sufficiently charming to involve us in his questionable exploits without arousing our censure. There's also a funny pay-off in the film's final scene that neatly encapsulates the movie's jaundiced viewpoint. A modest but dexterous enterprise, GETTING IN finds the light side of the dark side of human nature with ruthless efficiency. (Graphic violence, adult situations, nudity, extreme profanity.)