Stealing Harvard

Higher Ejikashin
Film review by: Witney Seibold



            The most successful comedies all take themselves seriously. Even supremely goofy classics like “Top Secret!” and “Young Frankenstein,” while crammed with illogical and hysterical sight gags, have stories which actually concern their characters, and care how they turn out. Bruce McCulloch’s new film “Stealing Harvard” plays the opposite. Rather than having a serious story cloaked in a suit of gags, it has a silly and illogical story with a serious exterior. Thus, it’s hardly a classic comedy.

            The story involves John Plummer (Jason Lee, who can and will do so much better than this) trying to come up with $30,000 tuition for his niece (Tammy Blanchard) who has been accepted into Harvard against all odds. What else can he do, of course, besides enlist the help of his best buddy Duff (Tom Green, who already has done worse than this) to help him through a series of wacky attempts at crime? Well, in a universe like this, not a thing. Oh, and John is also engaged to Elaine (Leslie Mann) who weeps during sex, is a little too chummy with her dad (Dennis Farina), and from whom John has to hide his life of crime. Not-so-hilarious hilarity ensues.

            This is one of those frustrating films which would be over if any of the characters were smart, or told the truth. No such luck. Jason Lee approaches John as an aw-shucks everyman, when indeed he’s something of a weakling who does little else when confronted other than shrug guiltily, and mutter a blank “Gee.” Tom Green is not a film actor. His brand of humor is intended to be very hot in the McLuhan sense; it needs immediacy and shock to work. When under a script, and needing to react to people, his usual humor is lost.

            It’s a scrappy world of guilty people. Are there any laughs? A few. Example: the teenage clerk who off-handedly shoots his own store and blames it on Duff and John to the police. But the film’s cynicism drowns all else. It took the wrong part of itself seriously, and turned in a mediocre effort.


            Be sure to look for the cameo by Don “The Dragon” Wilson.

Published in: on April 28, 2009 at 9:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

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