Film Review: Stealing Harvard (2002)

Also known as: Say Uncle, Stealing Stanford, The Promise, Uncle, You Promised (working titles)
Release Date: September 13th, 2002
Directed by: Bruce McCulloch
Written by: Martin Hayes, Peter Tolan
Music by: Christophe Beck
Cast: Jason Lee, Tom Green, Leslie Mann, Dennis Farina, Richard Jenkins, John C. McGinley, Chris Penn, Tammy Blanchard, Megan Mullally, Seymour Cassel, Martin Starr, Bruce McCulloch

Imagine Entertainment, Revolution Studios, 85 Minutes

Review:

“Elaine… I like her. I like her a lot, John. But she’s a bitch! She’s a dirty, dumb bitch.” – Duff

Almost everyone I know hated this movie. Well, I knew two people that liked it but like me, they’re also long-time Tom Green fans and appreciate his absurd humor and outlandish antics.

But I get it, Green’s style of comedy isn’t for most people even if he once had a “novelty” song that conquered TRL until MTV pulled it, as well as one of the most watched late night talk shows of the era, even though MTV pulled that too.

Green’s movies are typically met with disdain from the critics but then, the critics’ consensus is typically met with disdain from myself and others who now see them as just corporate movie shills that want their early screening passes, swanky party invites and swag to keep coming in.

Anyway, that being said, I can’t say that this is a particularly good film. However, it’s still enjoyable if you like Green, as well as Jason Lee. It also features a ton of good talent from Leslie Mann, Dennis Farina, John C. McGinley, Megan Mullally, Richard Jenkins, Seymour Cassel, Chris Penn and Martin Starr. Also, it’s directed by Bruce McCulloch of Kids In the Hall. So there’s a good mix of people who are both charming, skilled and commit to the bit that is this picture.

This is a dumb, stoner, buddy comedy and that’s fine. Sometimes you want to escape and laugh at stupid shit and this movie provides a lot of good, solid, stupid shit.

The plot is about a young guy (Jason Lee), on the verge of getting married and buying a house. He is reminded, however, that he promised his niece that he’d pay for her college. Well, she’s going to Harvard and even though she has some financial assistance, the guy has to come up with the remaining 30 grand. So he goes to his friend (Tom Green) for some ideas on how to come up with the money. One thing leads to another and they decide to commit a few crimes, which all go very, very poorly.

While Lee and Green are the two featured in most of the scenes, this is still an ensemble piece and everyone gets their moment to shine. That being said, I thought that this was really well cast and I’ve got to be honest, Dennis Farina and John C. McGinley steal the scenes they’re in because they’re so good and convincing.

Out of all the movies that feature Tom Green in a prominent role, this one is probably the best. Granted, I haven’t watched any of them for a really long time. So I may start revisiting them and seeing how they’ve held up since his heyday in the early ’00s.

Rating: 6/10

Film Review: Vacation (2015)

Release Date: July 29th, 2015
Directed by: Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley
Written by: Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley
Based on: characters by John Hughes
Music by: Mark Mothersbaugh
Cast: Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Skyler Gisondo, Steele Stebbins, Leslie Mann, Chris Hemsworth, Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Charlie Day, Ron Livingston, Norman Reedus, Keegan-Michael Key, Regina Hall, Nick Kroll, Kaitlin Olson, Michael Pena, Hannah Davis Jeter, Colin Hanks, John Francis Daley 

BenderSpink, David Dobkin Productions, New Line Cinema, 99 Minutes

Review:

“I just wanted to sing Seal with my family like normal people.” – Rusty Griswold

Full disclosure, I’m not an Ed Helms fan. I think the main reason for that is due to him making the final season of The Office pretty damn insufferable. I also don’t necessarily blame him for that, I think it was the writing and whoever was calling the shots on that show at the end. But with that, I was burnt out on Ed Helms for several years.

So, as I approached this film, I wanted to go into it with an open mind and without my previous biases. I knew I’d have to eventually get to this, as I was already watching and reviewing all the Vacation movies and didn’t want to simply omit this one just because it didn’t feature Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo as the leads.

I’m happy to say that I found this to be pretty decent. It does have some laughable moments, features cameos with a lot of people I like and Ed Helms had solid chemistry with Christina Applegate. Also, he played this version of Rusty Griswold pretty straight and not as over the top as his Andy Bernard character from The Office.

Ultimately, though, this is a rehash of what the original film was with the same destination in mind. The adventure on the way to WallyWorld followed similar beats and homaged some classic moments but there was enough original stuff in this to allow it to stand on its own and to not just be a paint-by-numbers remake.

I also like that this did bring back Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo in their iconic roles, even if it was just a small part within the larger movie.

I can’t really say that this is all that memorable, though. It’s better than some of the other Vacation movies but that was never really a high bar to begin with.

In the end, this is goofy, mindless escapism and while some jokes don’t land as intended, the movie still has a good, positive spirit about it and I liked the core characters.

Rating: 6.25/10