August 20, 2006

Accepted

The same thought ran through my mind the entire time I was watching Accepted. Sure, these kids are going to have an awesome four year experience, but aren't they going to be completely screwed once they graduate? Assuming tuition stays flat over the entire four years, that's over $80,000 of their parents' money down the drain with no concrete results to show for it. The film's celebration of something so naive and so childish is an extraordinarily weak foundation upon which an otherwise surprisingly enjoyable comedy is crafted.
Justin Long, who made pathetic likable and even brave in Dodgeball, takes the central role as Bartleby, the ringmaster of a desperate, last ditch scam launched after that perennial high school senior fear — what if none of the colleges I applied accept me? — is realized. If you live in a world without community colleges or indeed open admission of any sort, as Long's character Bartleby surely must, the solution Accepted presents would make a certain sort of sense. Together with single-minded redhead Rory and under-funded jock Hands, a shell of a university is crafted out of an abandoned mental hospital. Bartleby's friend Schrader, channelling Flounder from Animal House, handles the paperwork and gives the concocted website all of those realistic flourishes.
It's so real, in fact, that on opening day of orientation, roughly 300 students show up on the curb. Like Bartleby, South Harmon Institute of Technology (you can imagine how many jokes revolve around that acronym) is their very last fleeting hope. Gradually and rather haphazardly, a rough approximation of an institution of higher learning takes shape.
The student body is, to put it mildly, colourful. But none, not even the twitchy slouchy ADHD kid in a straight jacket, approaches the man Bartleby hires as dean of students. A burned out academic and raging alcoholic, Dean Lewis is Lewis Black unburdened by subject matter or structure. Initially introduced as a verbally abusive shoe salesman, Lewis trailer-side rants on the South Harmon lawn become one of S.H.I.T.'s most popular classes. Coupled with his offhand comments throughout, this is Lewis Black being the funniest I've probably ever seen him.
The plot, as it exists, involves a neighbouring enemy school filled with affluent white dudes, apparently the only target still fair game in our overly politically correct culture. But the plot's not really important. Accepted is a funny movie with likable characters. It's not terribly intelligent. It's not terrifically original. It's not even all that inspiring. It's simply good-natured fun that parodies the self-expression movement even as it embraces it. Sure, the students at S.H.I.T. will graduate without any real prospects to speak of. But the movie makes the case that they'll probably do more living in those four years than many of us will do our whole lives. And extending that logic, if the real world sucks too much after, so be it; they can balance the differential by killing themselves at the culmination of 22 fulfilling years of self-discovery.
See, if I myself had gotten a stronger formal higher education, this review would have had a real ending. ()

  - ADAM LENHARDT

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