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Archive for Friday, August 18, 2006

Accepted’ earns a solid C

August 18, 2006

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If you're into snap judgments, write off "Accepted" for what it is, a doltish "college" comedy with characters so generic they could have come from any youth "party" comedy, from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" to "Old School," "Can't Hardly Wait" to "American Pie."

Dismiss it as an academic version of the '90s Disney bomb "Camp Nowhere," about kids who invent a fake summer camp to get their parents off their backs, or "P.C.U.," a mildly obnoxious college "political correctness" rant that featured a pre-"Entourage" Jeremy Piven.

But there's a quality to "Accepted," a snap to the one-liners, a zip to the directing and editing, and a star turn by Justin Long ("Waiting ...," "Dodgeball"). And that makes it, well, not terrible.

The clue to why this might be is in the credits. Steve Pink - apparently his real name - directed. His screenplay credits: "High Fidelity," "Grosse Pointe Blank." The guy is a member of Team Cusack, that extended family of John Cusack (Piven is another) that has a shared sensibility in the way they see the ridiculous.

So yeah, it's an over-familiar comedy about high-school failures who tire of rejection letters and invent their own college, setting up online registration, renting an abandoned mental hospital and partying like it's 1979. Yup, the lead is a spin-doctor of Ferris-like qualities, down to his odd-duck name (Bartleby).

Movie
Accepted *

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And sure, there's Comedy Central's Lewis Black, ranting and cursing as Pied Piper to the would-be collegians who first hire him to "teach," and hang on his every word about "the system," "the man," and how they're really there to learn to be "good little consumers."

But you're going to laugh. At throw-away lines, such as Mom's (Ann Cusack) reaction to "I don't really need to go to college."

"Are you huffing?"

At the endless jokes played off the acronym for the name of the imaginary college - South Harmon Institute of Technology. At the students' nickname for themselves (acronym plus "heads"), the school mascot (a sandwich, think about it).

Justin Long plays a high school failure who decides to invent his own college in the comedy  "Accepted."

Justin Long plays a high school failure who decides to invent his own college in the comedy "Accepted."

And at the course selection - "The Decline and Fall of Chevy Chase."

Yeah, you've got to go along with "the types" - the computer nerd pal (Jonah Hill) who desperately wants to "fit in" at the nearby legit college; the Aryan jock and frat president; the pale, redheaded hippy chick meditator (Maria Thayer) and so on.

The parties? Keggers. The music? Ramones. These movies are always more a reflection of the generation that makes them than the generation they're depicting.

It's not as well-financed, as ambitious or as mean as the bloated "Talladega Nights." But it has roughly the same number of decent jokes. And the timing here is better. Comedy is fast. Pink, if that's his real name, gets that.

And if there is no Will Ferrell here to deliver the big, riotous improv riffs, there's always Black, fuming and spitting and busting a blood vessel on cue.

Long also makes a genial, goofy tour guide to the academic corner of the comedy ghetto. Half-witted it may be, but as back-to-school time-killers go, "Accepted's" right on the edge of acceptable.

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