Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:23 - Released 9/13/02

Stealing Harvard is every bit as dumb as you and I expected it to be from watching the trailer, but at least director Bruce McCulloch didn't kid himself about the stupidity of the concept penned by Martin Hynes and Peter Tolan. For one thing, he has figured out how to use Tom Green properly, as a wacky supporting character and nothing more. Green can be brilliant in the second banana role, adding truly hilarious background bits and inane lines every now and then, but we all learned from Freddy Got Fingered that putting him in the lead (not to mention the director's chair) is a bad idea. Secondly, McCulloch sees the material as what it is—a fluffy romp without credible characters or a believable plot line. Consequently, he's treated it as such, dispensing with character development, pretentious romantic sub-plots, and those pesky logic issues. The movie is dumb; he doesn't try to make it smart, and this results in another important selling point: a short running time.

The film begins with a voiceover by Jason Lee, who plays John Plummer, a nice guy who's been saving up to marry his nice girlfriend Elaine (Leslie Mann) while working at a medical supply store owned by her protective and intimidating father (Dennis Farina), with whom she shares a not-completely-normal relationship. But just as she announces that they've reached their goal of $30,000 and can marry and begin looking for a home, he learns that his niece Noreen (Tammy Blanchard) has been accepted into Harvard. At first he's ecstatic, until she and her mother, John's slutty sister Patty (Megan Mullally, Will & Grace) remind him that he promised long ago (in a loving but ill-advised moment of unclehood) that he'd pay for her college education. According to her, she's got the whole tuition covered except for $29,879. Rather than disappoint his blushing bride and her menacing daddy, he consults his crazy friend Duff (Green) to figure out a way to raise the money. Naturally, they pursue all the traditional avenues—burglary, armed robbery, fraud—none of which work exactly as planned.

I suppose as long as there are teenage boys to shell out money for movie tickets, there will be movies like this to suck it up. I can't say I approve, but at least it keeps them busy while their parents stay home and rent the venerable classics like Porky's and Animal House. Jason Lee is not nearly as valuable (or enjoyable) in this kind of part as he is in Almost Famous, or Vanilla Sky, or Kevin Smith's Jersey movies, but I guess everyone has to pay the bills. He looks shamefully aware that that's what he's doing. The girls look good, as is all that's required of them, and Farina treads familiar ground as the tough guy surrounded by idiots. And then there's Green, back to the things he does best—running around in the background, abusing chainsaws, cars, and hedge clippers, putting the emphasis on the wrong word, and wishing he were still sleeping with Drew. **½

Copyright 2002 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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