Accepted (2006)

accepted

“I don’t want to be here alone when the walls start to bleed!”

Lissa’s Rating: World Domination 101. I like it.

Lissa’s Review: You know, I really like food. Not like most normal people. No. Food is a genuine interest with me. I read cooking magazines and articles about organic produce and cooking techniques. I like reading recipes, for crying out loud. I love to cook, and a lot of what I love to cook is… well… I have standards for what I’ll serve to company, I guess. (I really hesitate to call myself gourmet or Epicurean or something like that.) But let’s put it this way: I know what a caper is, and I’m not afraid to use it. I’ve made cakes that have three kinds of chocolate mousse piled on each other, my homemade macaroni and cheese has shiitake mushrooms in it, and my idea of a good time involves a pastry blender.

But on the other hand, I adore McDonald’s. I love Kraft macaroni and cheese. I will drown fresh-steamed broccoli in Cheez Whiz. I occasionally steal a bite of my son’s Spaghetti-O’s. I wish my chocolate chip cookies tasted as good as bought ones loaded with chemicals and additives and God only knows what. Are you seeing where I’m going here? What I’m saying is sometimes I want Wolfgang Puck, and sometimes I want Domino’s.

Accepted is total Domino’s, and I enjoy it for what it is. A cheesy flick on a rather flimsy base with random details added like so many toppings, and yet it still tastes pretty darn good, even if it wouldn’t so much as blip on a critic’s radar.

The unfortunately named Bartleby (played perfectly by Justin Long) has gotten rejected from every college he’s applied to. Naturally, this does not fit into the Suburban 2.5 kids minivan lifestyle, and his parents are crushed. Determined to impress them — and perhaps because he’s a little ticked off as well — Bartleby creates a fake college with the help of his best friends Hands (Columbus Short), who lost his athletic scholarship, Rory (Maria Thayer), who only applied to Yale and was rejected, Glen (Adam Herschman), a slacker, and Sherman (Jonah Hill), who was accepted at the prestigious Harmon College but is always willing to help his best friend out. Along for the ride are Monica (Blake Lively, from Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) and the alleged Dean Schrader (Lewis Black). They take over a mental hospital and turn it into South Harmon Institute of Technology. Naturally, because this is movieland, their parents buy it. Unfortunately, so do a whole host of other rejects. And before he knows it, this high school grad is running a college. Oops.

Incidentally, Southern H-anything Institute of Technology? Wow, is that gag old. But then, it is still kind of funny.

Accepted is prefaced with many American Pie-like previews, thus automatically furthering my food metaphor if I so choose. Although the director and writers didn’t work on American Pie, there’s certain aspects of the humor where I can see the similarities. And amazingly, it’s not the sex jokes. I know — that’s quite a shock. But the similarity lies in the feel. So many times when I’m watching movies about teenagers, they don’t feel like teenagers to me. They feel like little miniaturized adults who spend a lot of time reading their thesauruses and brushing up on witty lines. I mean, I can accept some wit, but come on. But in both the original American Pie and in Accepted, I feel like I’m actually watching teenagers, no matter how ludicrous the premise is. The characters are concerned about things teenagers actually care about, like romance and acceptance and stuff like that. I mean, I don’t feel like I’m watching real teenagers when I’m watching Accepted, because that premise is way too out there to think that. But the characters still feel like kids. Does that make sense?

We picked up Accepted because apparently Justin made a comment somewhere on the Forums that it was better than he expected. I couldn’t agree more with that statement. I expected it to be completely dumb and annoying, and while it wasn’t pure comedy genius, it was… well, much better than I expected, even if everyone was channeling their favorite college movie actor. (It made a fun game. Who’s this actor imitating? We spotted several old faves from Animal House, Revenge of the Nerds, and PCU.) Justin Long is true Mutant material in many ways, and I actually mean that as a complement. I’ve been enjoying his quirky sense of humor, and it’s nice to see him carry a movie.

So, yeah. I’ve been trying to think of something more inspiring to motivating to say about Accepted, but it is, on the surface anyway, another slacker movie, so it’s kind of pointless and in a strange way ironic for me to do so, isn’t it? Yeah, it is. It’s entertaining if you turn your brain off and lower your expectations. Party on and all that.

Justin’s Rating: Lissa reviewed this first? Inconceivable!

Justin’s Review: I can imagine what many of you think of me: That I’m a hunchback ogre with green teeth, who idly chews on a finger bone, hacking and coughing while I cackle at a myriad of television and computer monitors arrayed before me, feeding upon an endless stream of films until I find the spiritual successor to PCU (so that I can stop watching TV). That’s very unfair of you; I had the back problem fixed two months ago. But the rest is more or less true — I’ve delved deeper into the college movie scene than any sane 30-year-old man should, looking for that right mix of elements to make my skin prickle and my lips part with glee. Most college films are trash, but I assume you know that. They all want to be Animal House, and Animal House to them means naked body parts and binge drinking. For some, that’s their college experience.

Not me. PCU always resonated so much with me not because it mirrored what happened at my own college, but because it got that mix of good friends, utterly weird situations, and zany devil-may-care escapades. Like its older cult brother, Accepted received little to no press or widespread acceptance (ha!), but it captures that right mix of true college like a beautiful bug swooped into a jar to preserve forever.

On paper, it’s easy to hiss and boo Acceptance into oblivion. Its plot — rejected college applicants end up banding together to make their own fake college to appease their parents — is nothing new (horrid flashbacks of Camp Nowhere), its geeks-versus-snobs theme has been done to death, and its main star is… Justin Long. That Justin Long, who’s been typecast as a breathless geek in everything from Galaxy Quest to Crossroads to Dodgeball. Heck, I had no idea how this movie even ended up on my rental list, that’s how little it registered with me.

But even all the tired or mismatched elements can sometimes be made into something great, if someone takes the time to polish them up and just plain have fun with them. I began to laugh and smile two minutes into the film, which was great times for me but perhaps unnerving for the other occupants of the Honda dealership service wait area, where I watched this on my portable DVD player. Accepted isn’t out to win any awards or make a deep statement about the universe; it’s just there to be light on its feet, verbally and visually, and entertain whomever it catches within its web.

Bartleby (Long) is the latest in a long line of verbally astute slackers, who’s not dumb, but not quite smart enough to get accepted to college. Under pressure to get out of his parents’ domain, Long enlists his friends’ help to create a college out of thin air, the internet, and an abandoned mental asylum. However, what begins as a slight deception to gain freedom from future responsibilities snowballs into something far greater, as the fictional South Harmon Institute of Technology (go ahead, work out that acronym) unexpectedly begins to fill up with rejected college wanna-be’s. And because this is a movie and sane reasoning has no good place in it, Bartleby’s solution is to take the crazy ball and run as far downfield as he can.

This translates into letting the new student body decide for themselves what they want to learn, and to spend thousands of dollars on a truly gigantic halfpipe. We all wish we could’ve gone to this school.

About the most damning thing I can say about this movie is that I simply wish there was more. It’s a lean and entertaining 90 minutes, chock full of interesting characters, hilarious quotes and a fairly sex-and-drugs-free lifestyle, but I found myself wanting to see the South Harmon kids get into more wacky situations. Perhaps a weekly sitcom (sans laugh track) is what I desire. There’s a terrific sidestory involving Bartleby’s best friend Sherman (Jonah Hill), who is both the brains behind South Harmon’s inception and a legitimate college student at the “other” Harmon campus. Sherman’s tale spits on the frat culture that’s infested so many of our universities, and takes this overweight guy past the typical fat “side buddy” role that his body build would typically obtain. In fact, Sherman’s probably the most witty person in the movie; I loved listening to his muttered rants.

Maybe it’s just me, and this will be a disappointing movie for everyone else. I doubt it, but I’m coming from a very specific place while watching this. Accepted is a movie for anyone who’s had a stressful college experience (particularly the “getting in” part) who wants to blow off steam, but it could find a far greater crowd given some time.

But before I leave, I just have one thing to say:

South Harmon football RULES!

Intermission!

  • Apple computers galore! There are 39 shots of Apple Computers in the movie. The star, Justin Long, became a spokesman for Apple Computers (the “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” commercials) just prior to the release of this movie.
  • Inappropriate ways to tell someone you know his girlfriend!
  • You know, it would be cool to major in comic books. And an intro to pornography? If you worded it as “The Exploitation of Women in Film and Media”, you could probably even get Women’s Studies credit for it at most colleges.
  • The college logo looks like a biohazard sticker?
  • World domination as a class. Come on — it would be so much fun.
  • The Wilhelm Scream is heard from the person on the skateboard, just after Bartleby samples one of Glen’s “wads”.
  • When Bartleby is giving the orientation speech to all the students, the mike keeps on giving feedback, Rory is on the mixing board trying to fix the problem but there are no mikes plugged into it, or outputs coming out of it.
  • The fake Dean Lewis’ office has Rorchach pictures framed as decorations (since they found them in the hospital)
  • During the hot dog costume scene, Schrader mentions how James Garfield even wore the suit, though not a member of the fictional BKE fraternity in the movie James Garfield was in fact a member of the Delta Upsilon International Fraternity The red fruits that Glen screamed, “What are you!” at are rambutans, a kind of tropical fruit.
  • Most of the movie was improvised, and a lot of the gags were pitched by the actors on the day of shooting.

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