HA! The School Color is Brown!

Accepted (2006) appeared on Comedy Central this morning. I’m sure that means nothing to you but really it has completed a journey that deserves to be noticed. The movie is so lazy that how it found the energy to get off the couch into a movie theater and now onto  television can only be counted a miracle, powered by some awesome drug or maybe twinkies. Accepted is the last comedy movie script to escape the 1980s alive and it took a lot of damage on the flight out. The plot alone meant this movie had to be written or at least dreamed up in Reagan’s America. Having a black guy make African fertility god statue is now considered sorta iffy but would have been nice company in any Animal House ripoff. When the 80s script stepped out in the year of 2006 out of a fiery blaze, it unsurprisingly lost most of the vulgarity and the very little sense of complexity those films contain.

The plot or at least the plot that survived the crash is such: Bartleby Gaines (Justin Long) because Melville references are great with the kids (What pretentions this did movie have? What heights did it expect to climb, what empires to conquer that it named its protagonist Bartleby?) is a high school conman who just learned he’s been rejected from all the schools applied to has his nerd straight arrow friend Sherman (Jonah Hill)  make a website for a fake school called South Harmon Institute of Technology before you know it, Bartleby has found a building for his fake college gotten Sherman’s crazy uncle and ex-academic Ben Lewis (Lewis Black) to pretend to be the dean, and has a place for his friends in the same predicament to hide for four years. But it turns out anyone who press applied on the website got in so there’s now 300 kids who think they’re going to college at South Harmon! What follows is unwacky hijinks as Bartleby must deal with running a school while running circles around his parents, the Harmon dean who wants to put him out of business, the dude dating the chick Bartleby has his heart set on, and the accreditation board. And boy does it not deliver on the small promise of drama given from this plot outline. It’s the longest episode of “Saved by the Bell” but without the pizzazz.

The movie hits its lazy stride in the very first scene where Bartleby and his jock friend are taking pictures for fake IDs when Sherman arrives to tell them that GASP the assistant principal is coming right at that moment! How will they justify the people, the camera equipment, and photo background? Any high school huckster this side of Ferris Bueller should have a zany plan to put into action and Long delivers by… having the group sing off-key and claiming it’s a glee club. Why not a photography club or something that involves the other props in a satisfactory way instead of a reference to the Music Man? It’s like they mixed pages of the rough draft into the regular movie without anyone caring enough to notice.

So little thought went into the script that to hit regular beats of “80s raunchy comedy” that it needs the audience to fill in the missing plot points by osmosis. Knowing we’re suppose to hate the rich frat dude, the movie forgets to set him up as being evil. Long is just mercilessly mocking this guy for apparently being luckier than him with the ladies. Somehow the bully is already chairman of a student committee, a well-established frat member, and dreaming of law school even though he’s a freshman in school for probably a few weeks. He should be president of Ohio by Junior year, before coming Emperor of the Rust Belt by graduation. When Lewis Black appears as the cynical intellectual with some radical ideas that got him thrown out it’s not surprising to find out he is neither an intellectual nor radical. Whose complaints range from “business is corrupt” all the way to “government is corrupt.” He’s the Lenny Bruce of the Ivy League! Such banality wouldn’t play in Rodney Dangerfield’s Back to School and even if it did, at least we would have gotten a Dangerfield one-liner.

All of this laziness could be ignored for Hollywood drivel if it wasn’t for the fact that the movie obviously thinks it’s delivering a message from the creative muse to all those special snowflakes out there that educational institutions have been ignoring for being stupid.  At the end of the film, the Ohio accreditation board recognizes SHIT as an institution of higher learning after Bartleby delivers a speech about the creative process. They conveniently forget South Harmon has been a fraud up to that moment. At least in Animal House, we knew the guys were just as full of shit as the establishment. They were fighting on equal absurd terms. When Justin Long gives a sermon about the value of the arts and criticizing higher education, the movie has set-up a straw world where he happens to be right. Somehow every misfit at South Harmon is actually an artistic outsider who just needed to construct their own program to succeed. If this movie is the result of such a program, we could at least take the satisfaction that these kids would have better chance of employment graduating from the University of Phoenix.

To end, unlike this self-satisfy ode to odes to college, on a high note: Jonah Hill shows the talent that took him to better things. Considering half his dialogue is a repeating of “guys, you’re gonna get us into trouble” like a grown up version of Chucky from the Rugrats, the fact the other half he delivers some funny lines and a certain amount of affection to a bunch of friends who spend their time driving him out of his comfort zone is a marvel. Almost enough to carry a episode “Parker Lewis Can’t Lose.”

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One Response to HA! The School Color is Brown!

  1. Rick Boyer says:

    Nice site. Theres some good information on here. Ill be checking back regularly.

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