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September 3, 2008

FILM REVIEW: College Gross, Gratuitous . . . and Good


By D.F. Krause

Cross Ferris Buellerís Day Off with Animal House, and you have a pretty good approximation of College, which opened over Labor Day weekend.


Cross a juvenile, crude, often gross and usually gratuitous film with surprisingly good acting and a pretty satisfying conclusion Ė and you can get College that way too.


Letís be honest. Schindlerís List this is not. College is not going to be cited by future generations as a film that lifted up the better instincts of humanity, and Iím sure its creators will shed no tears over this tragic shortcoming.


Deb Hagan directs a story written by Dan Callahan and Adam Ellison Ė revolving around a fairly straight-laced high school senior named Kevin (Drake Bell of Drake and Josh fame on Nickelodeon), who gets dumped by his girlfriend for not being enough of a partier, and decides to rebel against this misfortune by, you guessed it, becoming a partier!


That always works well.


His friends Carter (Andrew Caldwell) and Morris (Kevin Covais) convince him to keep his existing plans for a college-orientation weekend, but instead of staying in the dorm to which they are assigned, they finagle an invitation to spend the weekend in a fraternity house. Little do they realize, of course, being high school dorks, that the frat guys have plans for them.


When they are not being humiliated with farm animals, duct taped to statues naked or being forced to do body shots off a . . . er, well, I canít relive the scene by writing about it . . . they are being forced to do odd chores in service to their college masters.


The presentation of college life, especially for those in the fraternity scene, will come across as over the top unless you actually went through it. In reality, itís pretty true to life. The frat guys themselves are cast as classic stereotypes, and very entertainingly so. Teague (Nick Zano) is a sadistic narcissist who thinks he is Godís gift to women and considers it his personal duty to harass and torture pretty much everyone. Bearcat (Gary Owen) is a professional college party animal, apparently long past the point where he should have graduated, but why would he want to leave all this? For a job? Are you serious?


The film holds nothing back in his depiction of the gory details. You want to see a toilet in its most disgusting state? You want to see body hair in places it should never grow? You want to apply the laws of physics to vomit as it splatters across the windshield of a car? (The deanís car, no less.)


Youíve come to the right place! Throw in your share of breasts and a hefty helping of alcohol consumptions, and youíve pretty much got the activity that goes on during the first five minutes of your typical college party.


And yet, there is actually depth to the film. Kevinís over-reaction to being dumped is predictable enough, but his character is interesting and Bell plays the role exceedingly well. Even when Kevin is most out of control, you never forget that this is essentially a responsible kid whoís blowing off some steam. You also donít forget there are often consequences for doing so.


Carter is a big loudmouth who talks a better game than he backs up, while Morris is a nerd who is in line for a scholarship before his misadventures get in the way of a scheduled interview with the college mucky-mucks. All three are forced by the events of the weekend to confront their feelings about themselves and about each other. Yes, I know, I know, that is clichť to the max Ė but only because itís a classic storyline, and when done well (as it is here), it never ceases to be compelling.


Less plausible is how these three dorkwads end up attracting three of the hottest college girls on campus. Carterís catch is particularly, how shall we say, out of his league Ė and all he has to do to snag her is give her his beer.


Where was that when I was in college?


But like I said, this isnít a hugging-and-learning movie, so you can count on a conclusion that takes everything gratuitous thatís happened and raises it to another level.


College will not win any Oscars, unless they give them out for grossness, but considering the genre, itís a surprisingly well-acted and respectable effort. It beats waking up next to the toilet. I would think.


Three stars out of four


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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