Reviewed by: Douglas Downs
Starring: Colin Hanks, Jack Black, Catherine O'Hara, Leslie Mann, Schuyler Fisk | Directed by: Jake Kasdan | Produced by: Scott Aversano, David Gale, Herb Gains, Van Toffler, Scott Rudin | Written by: Mike White | Distributor: Paramount Pictures
In many ways MTV has become synonymous with distastefulness. “Orange County” is no exception. Instead of offering a crisp “fresh-squeezed” taste, this film is straight from the generic frozen concentrate littered with offensive material. Jake Kasdan (son of director Lawrence Kasdan of “The Big Chill” and “The Accidental Tourist”), managed to squeeze plenty of foul language, sex, drug and alcohol abuse, and strong homosexual themes into one very disappointing beginning to 2002. Not even the excellent gene-pool of talent, nor the strong cast of extras (including the 2001 champion of the G-rated box office Garry Marshall) can help this flic take on a different view. Perhaps Colin Hanks, son of Tom, is following on in the early path his father took with his first films like “Bachelor Party”.
“Orange County” is about a high school senior named Shaun Brumder (Colin Hanks). Shaun wants to go to Stanford, but due to a series of unfortunate mistakes, he is rejected. Viewers follow his wacky odyssey to convince Stanford the truth of his academic ability and, ultimately, to grant him entrance into the prestigious university. Meeting rejection, Shaun sees his dream of becoming a great author fading. His desire to meet his favorite author, Stanford Professor Markus Skinner, seems completely out of reach. His girlfriend (Schuyler Fisk, daughter of Sissy Spacek) wants to see Shaun succeed, but she wants him to attend a local school with her. But staying at home is not what Shaun has in mind, and so Shaun’s underachieving older brother (played by Jack Black) offers to drive him to Stanford to plead his case and correct any misunderstandings.
Shaun’s entire family is dysfunctional: his mother is a self-centered alcoholic (played by Catherine O'Hara); his father (John Lithgow) left home to marry a 20-year-old; his older brother hides drugs in aspirin bottles; and Shaun’s stepfather is disabled and on medication. Can we blame him for wanting to get out of his present situation and work toward a successful life? But just as Shaun wants desperately to get into Stanford, I found myself desperately wanting to fast-forward to the rolling credits.
My strong recommendation is to skip this film. Parents of the intended teen audience, I urge you to discourage your child from seeing this loser.
That’s not to say that everything in this film is bad: at least Colin Hanks is quite impressive in his acting ability. His natural talent is obvious. I hope that he will soon be given the chance to try roles that are not scripted with cover-to-cover offensive material.