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"Accepted": As much as it tries, it's no "Animal House"
Special to The Seattle Times
Oh, to be dumb and in college. Or, better put: Oh, to be a funny movie about kids being dumb and in college.
This hipster-teen farce wishes it were that, sorely trying to be a latter-day "Animal House." But there's none of the anarchic loopiness that the men of Delta House and Faber College executed with such comic subversion. Even though it outright plagiarizes many plot points and gags of that generational classic, "Accepted" can't make the leap from contrived to genuine comedy.
Class clown Bartleby Gaines (Justin Long) gets rejection letters from every second-rate party school he applies to. Using Photoshop for letterhead and his über-dork friend's Web wizardry, he creates a vaporware college to satisfy his parents' expectation that he follow high school with a proper college.
The subterfuge sells dad. Bartleby and his also-rejected friends then use their folks' tuition money to turn an abandoned mental institution into the bogus campus of the South Harmon Institute of Technology (the naughty wink-wink acronym gets way too much play). But, oops, they forgot to turn off the Web site. After a few days, they open the doors to find several hundred other rejects who found the "click here" button to register.
Instead of sending them all home, Bartleby and his crew keep the windfall of tuition and devise a curriculum based on the students' own choosing. They also spend plenty of dough creating a party-all-the-time atmosphere that eventually gets the goat of the evil dean and the preppy student henchmen of the real college next door (refer again to "Animal House").
Only a few details make "Accepted" an acceptable late-summer teen diversion. Justin Long is a rubbery-faced goof (known for a string of funny Apple Computer ads), but he's a little old and way too much of a brainy wiseacre to be believed as either the dolt or innocent puppy dog he's required to play. He also goes through an incongruous display of physical pratfalls that assume a clumsiness out of place with his character.
A willowy beauty named Monica (Blake Lively) is his love interest, and she fumbles about with fetching awkwardness in tandem with Bartleby's bumbling. Also on hand is dyspeptic comedian Lewis Black as a bitter ex-teacher whom Bartleby hires to impersonate a dean. Black's signature angry diatribes provide some of the movie's few honest laughs.
It may look bad for Bartleby when his student body gets shut down, but don't discount the power of vulgarity, stupidity and unworthy rip-offs from better movies to save the day.
Ted Fry: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company