Monday, September 8, 2008
Did you love Superbad? I sure did. Did you love Superbad so much you wanted to see it again without the brilliant writing but with a cast of unfunny characters? If yes, then chin up you little weirdo, 'cause it’s your lucky day. College, brought to you the producers of the passably mediocre Waiting, takes all the funny parts of Superbad, American Pie, Accepted and Animal House and manages to compile them into a completely humorless whole.
First off, there’s the cast. Superbad gave us Michael Cera, the future American Hugh Grant; Jonah Hill, a slightly younger (in age) but much younger-looking foil for comedy giant Seth Rogen; and Christopher Mintz-Plasse, the unlikely breakout star. In the attempt to score the nice guy/mouthy fat friend/nerd trifecta again, we get Kevin Covais, who plays the McLovin part with all the grating, annoying qualities and none of the absurd genius that made that character great; Andrew Caldwell, previously known for making an Armageddon reference in Transformers; and Drake Bell, who got his start on Nickelodeon’s sub-average sketch comedy The Amanda Show. Separate they are uninteresting, but together they form a Voltron of unfunniness.
The trio decides to party at a local university after Bell’s Kevin gets dumped by his girlfriend, played by Alona Tal (Meg Manning in the criminally canceled cult show Veronica Mars). She maintains Kevin is too boring and she wants to go crazy in college, so what better way to win her back than by finding the nearest kegger and making poor choices?
Enter that most dreaded of establishments, the frat house. Carter (Caldwell) has a cousin who’s legacy, so the gang hits up a frat for a place to stay. The house, which has been denied charter renewal, is desperate for pledges, but, as their reactions show, not so desperate that they'll accept these geeks. Despite being handed new pledges out of thin air, that six-month gap separating the boys from being legitimate freshmen is grounds for frothing rage from the entire campus.
Here’s where the film starts to fall apart (which is not a good sign, considering it’s only ten minutes in). The nerd, the annoying fat guy, and the dull nobody become the life of the party thanks to copious amounts of booze that have apparently been spiked with magic, since that’s the only logical explanation for how they gain popularity. Seems like things worked out for them, huh?
But there’s trouble afoot. These boys are too popular, and the frat boys are jealous. The fraternity president, Teague (Nick Zano), is even madder because Bell stole away his girl - who was technically his one-night stand anyway. Never mind that he’s always got a woman or two draped over him, he wants the girl he let get away solely to keep Kevin from getting any. The girl in question alternates between charming and unrelentingly annoying; Kevin of course tells her he’s a freshman so she’ll speak to him (because being a freshman is sooo much better than a high school senior). When the truth finally comes out she acts like he tied her up and murdered her family in front of her. Oh no, he said he was six months older than he really was; he’s not a Holocaust denier or a pedophile, for Christ’s sake.
Like nearly every college film, College can’t decide whether it’s raging against the machine or helping to show kids that college isn’t really that scary. Pick one, all right? I’m sick of this inane back and forth; we know that college isn’t that scary because we’re here. People are who about to go to college probably know it to unless their sole source of information is old raunchy comedies. These three kids are dragged through the mud, sometimes literally, but in the end they had a great time because they got laid? When did sex become a deus ex machina and who do I need to go back in time and kill to prevent it?
If you’ve not had a chance to watch any R-rated high school/comedies made in the last 30 years or you’re emotionally stunted, you might get a few laughs out of this. But honestly, it’s such a broad rip-off of every good adolescent comedy that they might as well have called it Frat Movie and been done with it. It literally looks like some amateur teenagers tried to make a bootleg version of Superbad. Say, wasn’t one of The Amanda Show’s best-known sketches about a family who recorded their own versions of good movies?