Rated R - Running time: 1:36 - Released 8/21/98

During the early '90s, many movies and TV shows suffered a great deal because of the "politically correct" phase the industry was going through. Now, as if the pendulum is in full backswing, there seem to be a rash of films intentionally created to go against the PC grain. Such has been the case with recent releases like There's Something About Mary and Bulworth, both of which seemed intended to upset someone, or everyone. And Alan Cohn's hilarious directorial debut, Dead Man On Campus, fits right into that style, too. While some will criticize its casual attitude toward college-style drug and alcohol abuse, Dead Man's humor can't be denied.

This is not to say that the film is without faults. Written by a foursome of newcomers (Anthony Abrams & Adam Larson Broder [story] and Michael Traeger & Mike White), it does have some major plot holes that, if you let them trip you up, can ruin the whole show.

The story is this: Josh Miller (Tom Everett Scott) is starting his freshman year at Daleman College. He's a studious kid; in fact he's there on an academic scholarship, and he must maintain a B average to keep it. He has no money, so if he lets his grades slip, he's out. But Josh's roommate, Scott Cooper (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) is a true party animal. This is the latest of several schools he's been to (he's been kicked out of the rest), and he has no intention of straightening up now. But Cooper knows that his father, the wealthy CEO of a toilet cleaning business, is fed up. If Cooper ruins his last chance, he will be forced to go into biz with his dad. And not in some cushy desk job, either. He'll be in the, er . . . trenches. Josh also meets up with a very attractive and sensible girl, Rachel (Poppy Montgomery), with whom he'd like to build a relationship.

After the boys party a little too hearty and Josh fails a test, he realizes that it's mathematically impossible for him to retain a B in that class. While brooding over a beer, they learn of an obscure clause in the college's bylaws: If a student commits suicide, all his or her roommates will receive straight A's. (See "plot holes" section above.) So after a few brief moments of conscience, Josh is convinced by Cooper that if they find a student who seems to be already suicidal, they can get him to move into their dorm and then "push him over the edge"--psychologically, of course.

After this laborious and ridiculous first section is done with, then the fun really begins. We meet several different characters, each hilarious in his own way, whom Josh and Cooper try to work into their plan. There's a thrill-seeking frat boy (Lochlyn Munro) who spends all his time hanging off high ledges for fun, a paranoid (Randy Pearlstein) who thinks Bill Gates is out to get him, and a supposedly British lead singer in a grunge band (Corey Page) who patterns himself after Kurt Cobain. Needless to say, their plan falls flat every time, and Rachel becomes increasingly suspicious of Josh's emotional stability.

This could really be a terrible film, were it not for the energetic performances of the cast. An MTV production, the film shows the youthful spirit that institution is known for. There's even a cameo appearance by MTV newsman Kurt Loder, as himself. The resolution of the story is as hard to swallow as the premise, but the performances are funny enough to compensate for this. Dead Man will remind any college grad of the fun and freedom of freshman year, and the wide variety of personalities met there. ****

Copyright 1998 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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