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· 90 minutes
Directed by Steve Pink
Written by Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, Mark Perez
· Justin Long
· Jonah Hill
· Adam Herschman
· Columbus Short
· Maria Thayer
The college comedy is a genre all it's own. It has conventions and cliches and stock characters. The latest example of the genre, Accepted starring Justin Long, breaks no new ground in the college comedy genre. It's a slight, forgettable little comedy that has a more than a few redeeming qualities but not much to recommend it.
Justin Long stars in Accepted as Bartleby Gaines an underachieving slacker whose inattention to his schoolwork has left him without a college acceptance letter. Every school he applied to has rejected him. Even Ohio State! His safety school. With his parents breathing down his neck Bartleby launches one of those only in the movies kind of schemes, he starts his own college.
With the help of his computer nerd best friend Sherman (Jonah Hill), who got into the hometown school Harmon College, Bartleby founds the South Harmon Institute of Technology, if you don't get the joke of that name don't worry the film will explain it again and again and again. At first it's just a very convincing website and acceptance letter but when mom and dad insist on driving Bartleby to school he makes the drastic choice to use his tuition check to rent a building.
Bartleby is not alone in his rejection and acceptance of this wacky scheme. Joining Bartleby at South Harmon is his pal Hands (Columbus Short) who lost his football scholarship after an injury and Rory (Maria Thayer) a Ivy league wannabe who only applied to Yale and swore off other college's after being rejected. Pooling their collective tuitions they rent and renovate an old psychiatric hospital and manage to fool their parents into thinking South Harmon is for real.
Unfortunately they also convince a bunch of other rejects who show up at South Harmon expecting their freshman year. Can Bartleby and friends keep up the ruse of South Harmon or will they be headed to jail on fraud charges. If you don't know already then you probably haven't seen very many movies.
Predictability is not the biggest problem with Accepted. It's biggest problem is Director Steve Pink and writers Bill Collage and Adam Cooper who fail to put their own unique spin on the requirements of the college comedy genre. While director Pink does a good job of keeping up an energetic pace and his cast crafts some lovable characters, there is not one college comedy cliche that Accepted manages to avoid.
The bad guys are the crusty dean from the rival college played with extra crust by Anthony Heald. The dean is joined, in typical Animal House fashion, by a group of overpriveleged white frat boys lead by aryan dreamboat Travis Van Winkle. No points for guessing that Travis's character, Hoyt Ambrose, has a hot but very sweet girlfriend who also has eyes for Bartleby. The lovely Blake Lively is Monica who you can bet won't be with Hoyt much longer than the plot deems necessary.
Wait, you won't believe it, there is a bigtime party in the movie too, that happens to be on the same night as major bash thrown by the evil frat guys. No points again for guessing that the bad guys are crashing our heroes party with vague threats and evil intent. These scenes have been repeated more times than I or you can count and there is nothing even remotely original about them in Accepted.
I have said in countless reviews of similar genre pictures that the key to genre filmmaking is not originality but rather taking the established conventions of genre and simply doing them better or at the very least slightly different than they have been done before. Accepted simply repeats the conventions with different actors. These are some very good actors but we've heard all of the jokes before.
The film becames almost saccharine near the end when a full of himself Bartleby gives one of those rousing the troops speeches that becomes an earnest defense of his wacky scheme. This almost works because we like Justin Long as Bartleby but the speech is simply another of the many cliches that Accepted doesn't just repeat it relies upon.
Accepted has a secret weapon in comedian Lewis Black. Brought in as a burnout ex-educator to be South Harmon's Dean, Black brings his sardonic, downer persona to Accepted and gives the film it's one shot of originality. Doling out his opinions on the education system, taxes and bureaucracy, like he was delivering one of his brilliant stand up routines, Black teaches the kids of South Harmon more about the real world than anything they could learn at a real college even if it is delivered with severe cynicism.
Justin Long is an appealing young actor who has been turning heads in supporting roles since his breakout turn on TV's Ed. He came to mainstream attention as the youngest member of Vince Vaunghn's Dodgeball team and turned in a radically different cameo as a gay art gallery employee in Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston's The Break Up earlier this summer.
Now, in his first starring role in a mainstream comedy, Long shows a great deal of charisma and charm but the role is to familiar to be as funny as it could be. There is simply nothing that Long can do to break the mold of the classic, fast talking, quick witted campus legend. It's the mold put in place by past college comedy leads like Ryan Reynolds in Van Wilder or Jeremy Piven in the cult classic P.C.U. It's a template with it's roots in classic Bugs Bunny cartoons where our hero is always imperiled but also always one step ahead of that peril thanks to his quick wits.
Originality is not a prerequisite in a college comedy genre. There are some unavoidable conventions of the genre that filmmakers simply cannot avoid. What the better filmmakers do is try and twist those conventions with their own unique vision. Unfortunately director Steve Pink lacked the vision to bring any new twists to Accepted which wastes a terrifically likable cast on a retread of every cliche in the book.