year: 2002
cast: Colin Hanks, Jack Black, Chevy Chase, Jane Adams
rating: *1/2

This movie suffers from what many modern (post 2000) slacker comedies are stricken with: the "Anything Goes" syndrome. There are few bounds in this independent film directed by Jake "Son of Lawrence" Kasdan, featuring cameos from Chevy Chase, Lily Tomlin and Lawrence's own stock actor, Kevin Kline. The story centers on a young man from... yep, Orange County, California (where I live), who spends his careless youth surfing and partying; then reads a book that "changes his life" and, along with a dream to become a writer, really wants to attend Stanford University to meet the book's author who works there. Along the way this desire (i.e. the plot) is outshined by the wacky side-characters, including two Beavis and Buttheadish surfer pals; a drunk mother (Catherine O'Hara) married to a crippled old man; a selfish father (John Lithgow) married to a gorgeous young "trophy"; and a stoner brother played by Jack Black (who's not in the movie as much as is promoted) - all vying to outdo each other on screen. When the main character - played by bland Colin Hanks, son of Tom - finally arrives at the college of his dreams, within ten minutes he's accidently given the dean of admissions (a portly Harold Ramis) enough "X" to blind a horse, and to top it off, his zany drugged-out brother (using every stoner cliche in the book including the usual "WOW!") burns the admissions building to the ground. Nothing really matters at this point, and yet we have another (drawn-out and totally useless) half-an-hour to go. All the things that should have been peripheral eccentricities, which end up leaping to the foreground of every scene, are symptoms of that disease I already mentioned: "Anything Goes"... Which can be, as in this case, fatal. That is, without that one cure, substance... Something this movie has very little of.

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