Reviewed on 2008 January 24
Silly, unbelievable college yarn that tries to be a modern-day Animal House. It couldn’t drink Animal House’s bathwater, but it goes a long way on Justin Long’s charm and sheer chutzpah. Get a bowl of guacamole and some chips and there’s far worse ways to pass 90 minutes.
Bartleby Gaines (Long) is a likable smart-aleck high school senior that is in a world of hurt, because he isn’t accepted into any colleges and because his snotty baby sister already seems to have a more plausible educational and career path mapped out than him. Things come to a head when he goes to a party and his humiliated parents (Mark Derwin and Ann Cusack) have to listen to the other parents gloating about their kids getting into great schools. His best friend Sherman Shrader (Jonah Hill) even gets into the prestigious Harmon.
He learns he’s not the only one to be denied: his buddy Hands (Columbus Short) lost his sports scholarship because of an injury, and the overachiever Rory (Maria Thayer) completely falls apart when she doesn’t make it into Yale. Dejected, B. starts playing with the logo of one of the rejection letters in his collection, and has an epiphany. He’s going to fake a university! With a few simple mouse clicks, he creates South Harmon Institute of Technology (yes the acronym joke gets beaten into the ground). Sherman creates a realistic-looking website for the school, and Rory even digs up a building for B.’s parents to visit.
The problem (oh come on, you thought they’d get away with this?) is that Sherman doesn’t know his own strength. His website is so realistic that other students want to enroll in South Harmon too.
And here the movie takes a luge run into ridiculousness, but it’s still amusing. As dumb as this thing is, it does make a point about how stilted a college education can be. For what it is, the acting isn’t bad either. Listen to Sherman’s crazy Uncle Ben (Lewis Black) spout off about taxes.
Two chocolate morsels.