Sunday, December 05, 2004

DB Weekend Movie Fest: The Best Campus Comedies of All Time II

Worst Campus Comedy of All Time

With Honors (1994)
Okay, there are probably worse out there, but not many. This movie falls mindless face first into every genre cliché possible, with nothing really redeeming or charming in it to yank it from the depths of humiliating disgrace. The usually pretty good Brandon Frasier stars as Joe College, working his way through Harvard and minding his own business, until Bam! bum (the usually pretty good) Joe Pesci comes into his life, setting up a series of mind numbingly dull life lessons that Teach Us All Something About Ourselves. Pesci’s got a terrible Boston/bum accent that grates throughout, the snobby Harvard roommates make you want to jump out a window, and the Heartwarming Ending makes you want to jump out of a closed window.

Pretty Good Campus Comedies… But Not Top Five Worthy

Soul Man (1986)
This movie is a by-the-numbers, conventional campus comedy (that also takes place at Harvard) that does everything right. The long lost C. Thomas Howell (remember when he was in everything?) plays a young hot shot who doesn’t get into Harvard… and has the cajones to dye his skin black (with some kind of tanning pill) to get a minority scholarship. Everything goes great – he even snags a beautiful dark skinned girlfriend (Rae Dawn Chong) – until an enemy lets his secret out and everything falls apart. The performances are strong all around, especially by Arye Gross (whom I still think of as Gordo) and James Earl Jones as a Harvard Law Professor. And there’s actually a decent sociological/racial aspect that underlies the silliness that doesn’t hit you over the head but provides a subtle tension throughout.

American Pie 2 (2001)
This surprisingly strong sequel to the smash hit finds the kids at a summer house after their freshmen years at college (and thus making the flick eligible for Campus Comedy greatness consideration). The large cast has great chemistry, and the inevitable embarrassing situations that pop up remain as fresh and laugh-out-loud funny as the original. In fact, this film outpaces the original in certain ways as the characters and situations find an even more confident and, shall we say, ball-sy footing? Jason Biggs and Eugene Levy are priceless again as Embarrassed Son and Nerdy/Ernest Dad and Sean William Scott is again superb as the know-it-all moron Stifler. Unfortunately for the franchise, American Pie 3 was a disaster. They should have known a third helping was overdoing it by more than a little.

Van Wilder (2002)
Now, this movie isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s a surprisingly funny romp through dating and university life, starring Ryan Reynolds as a Man on Campus among Men on Campuses. He’s quite winning and amiable in the role, and I’m surprised I haven’t seen him in more things recently (he was the best part of that Two Guys, A Girl, and a Pizza Place, too). This movie goes way over the top at times (a scene with a horny bulldog and crullers comes to mind especially) which effectively knock it out of Top Five consideration. And now, without (even) further adieu…

In the next installment of DB Weekend Movie Fest: The Top Five Campus Comedies of All Time!

Please feel free to post your own comments, suggestions, and vitriolic assertions – because that’s when the fun really starts.


The Sore Loser said...

Let the fun begin! I agree with all of your assessments so far except perhaps for American Pie II. I thought it was tolerable and occasionally funny but it was basically just more of the same. Now, I wouldn't want to taint your top 5 list, but here are a few darker or quirkier suggestions you might want to consider:

1) The Rules of Attraction

This is not a comedy (though neither is "With Honors"). This is the "Apocalypse Now" of college films, and I don't mean this entirely as a complement. It's similar in its degeneration into madness and its wonderful absurdity. This is a movie in which little makes sense, in which you feel nothing for any of the characters, and in which it is difficult to distinguish fantasy from reality. In short, it's a must see.

2) Kicking and Screaming

Like "The Rules of Attraction", this movie isn't really about anything. Well, it's about four quasi-friends who can't seem to stay away from college even after they've graduated. In a way, it's an entertaining and intelligent "Reality Bites". Is that good enough for top 5? Probably not. But it's got some great scenes.

Eric Berlin said...

If I had recalled Kicking and Screaming while coming up with Worst Campus Comedy of All Time, it could have very well knocked out With Honors for the title. I remember renting it based solely on the fact that Eric Stoltz was in it (he'll remain a lifelong idol of mine on the strength of Killing Zoe) and was bitterly disappointed. Looking back I remember inane chatter and not much else (and I'm usually a sucker for a good chatty comedy).

All the same, I tend to prefer my campus comedies decidedly lowbrow -- which certainly will be reflected in the Top 5 list.

Looking briefly at a review of The Rules of Attraction, I would like to see it, if only to round out my Campus Comedy Education.

The Sore Loser said...

I'm amazed that you hated Kicking and Screaming and that you'd put it in the same categoryt as With Honors. Kicking and Screaming has "Eric" written all over it. Can you name the world's most overrated Saint? Ding!

Eric Berlin said...

Well, you know, Mr. Sore Loser, that's the thing about me (and Dumpster Bust): we aim to amaze. And sometimes, just sometimes, we hit that bullseye square on the mark.

What's interesting is that, in the brief history of Dumpster Bust, talking trash about movies (see: Bowfinger and Kicking and Screaming) seems to be the surest way to elicit response from the populace.

I'll have to do a Movies I Really Bloody Well Hate column. Sounds like a good DB Weekend Movie Fest, actually, after the HOTly anticipated Top 5 Campus Comedies is over and done with, of course.


The Sore Loser said...

I hate to interrupt the cavalcade of whimsy, but I have this eerie feeling that we're alone. All alone. At least on your blog. And mine.

Eric Berlin said...

Brother, if we sit tight and make it through this first and coldest of nights, I have no doubt that the coming of the dawn will bring riches of visiting folk.

They'll come dressed in deeply jeweled garments, bearing gifts of Ideas and Opinion. Though at first they'll be sceptical (and why shouldn't they be?) they will soon learn the Way of the Dumpster Bust and seek to eagerly Spread the Word amongst their own Enclaves.

But for now, Brother, we must sit close together (for warmth -- just for warmth, mind) and await the dawn.

For it will come. This I know.