Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:23 - Released 1/11/02

Although the trailers for Orange County make it look like it's another wacky Jack Black movie, Black is really little more than a side character in a depressing story about a young beach bum who tries to better himself, is thwarted by his entire dysfunctional family, and finally decides that it doesn't really matter that much. Unfortunately, it's supposed to be a comedy.

Written by Mike White and directed by Jake Kasdan, Orange County is one of those comedies that is built on a simple misunderstanding that, if someone would simply take 5 minutes to explain it to the right person, could be cleared up. But then you wouldn't have a movie. Shaun Brumder (Colin Hanks) is a high school senior from Orange County, California, who has never had a lot of trouble with school. His grades are impeccable, and when he finds a book buried in the sand at his local surfing hangout, it changes his life. He decides that he wants to be a writer, and not only that, he wants to go to Stanford University, where the writer of the book teaches.

Now for the misunderstanding: Shaun's guidance counselor (Lily Tomlin), who doesn't appear to have any idea who he is, mistakely sends the wrong transcripts to Stanford under his name. The ones she sends, of course, belong to a stoner with terrible grades. Although in the real world this could surely be cleared up with a phone call, Shaun is rejected, and therefore forced to adopt other methods to convince the Stanford admissions staff to change their minds, from attempting to schmooze a high-placed board member (Garry Marshall) to driving to the university and appealing to the dean of admissions (Harold Ramis). But since Shaun's friends and family either a) don't really want him to go or b) are too caught up in their own stupid problems to help him out, his every attempt at impressing the necessary people is wrecked by some inane mixup or slapsticky event.

In addition to twentysomethings Hanks, Black, and Schuyler Fisk, who plays Shaun's almost intelligent girlfriend, there are a surprising number of older and more distinguished actors making appearances in this second-rate teen comedy, including Catherine O'Hara and John Lithgow as Shaun's irresponsible divorced parents, Chevy Chase and Ben Stiller in what amount to two-line cameos, and Kevin Kline as the author whose book fires Shaun's imagination. If one simply saw the cast list, one would expect a much better film, but few of them have more than 5 minutes of screen time. Hanks shows signs of having inherited his father Tom's genial charm and ability to deliver the occasional sly wit with the same ease as his better-known co-star Black, and Fisk (daughter of Sissy Spacek) comports herself admirably, too, but this film doesn't really give them all that much to work with. But, I suppose you have to start somewhere. I mean, after all, Hanks's dad got his start on Bosom Buddies. **

Copyright 2002 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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