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Stealing Harvard

Starring Tom Green and Jason Lee
Story by Martin Hynes and Peter Tolan
Screenplay by Peter Tolan
Directed by Bruce McCulloch

IN SHORT: yer average stupid comedy. [Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, language and drug references. 83 minutes]

Stealing Harvard being the second Tom Green starrer of the year, Cranky rose extra early to give his painkillers plenty of time to kick in, popped a tranquilizer for extra support and settled down in a comfy leather easy chair in the Sony screening room in New York. A private room is not the best place to screen a comedy, as we learned with the first Austin Powers flick, but this was the one and only available showing before release so we hoped for the best. A pharmaceutical nap. A terrorist attack. Anything. But, alas, the lights went down and the curtain went up . . .

and Stealing Harvard didn't suck. That may be thanks to writer Peter Tolan, whose work we don't know or director Bruce McCulloch, whose work as part of The Kids in the Hall we do. Their talents combined, the resulting product was certainly stupid enough that no one much beyond college years is going to beat the pavement down to the local cinema, but it was funny enough that the kidlets won't feel ripped off and us old farts can scream at the teevee screen if we feel ripped off by pay per view charges, which is where the ranking falls once you get to the bottom of this page.

John Plummer (Jason Lee) has got the world on a string. His hot blonde fiancee, Elaine Warner (Leslie Mann) has just told him that the last barrier to their getting married has been overcome. That barrier is not her way overprotective and, for that matter, touchy feely father (Dennis Farina), more than coincidentally John's boss at a medical supply multi-market, but the $30,000 down payment needed for their perfect starter house. The house is all Elaine's idea and John hasn't even participated in the look and find process, but he promises to drop by the site after visiting his sister Patty (Megan Mullally) and niece Noreen (Tammy Blanchard) in the trailer park in which they slum. Patty is the perfect definition of trailer trash. Noreen, on the other hand, has been laboring these past eighteen years to do what mom never did -- graduate high school and go to college -- an expectation fueled by a long ago promise by Uncle John to foot the bill for that higher education.

John doesn't remember the promise, but there it is on videotape, and Noreen doesn't expect her uncle to foot the entire bill as promised. With financial aid and all that loan stuff, all she needs is . . . you guessed it . . . $30,000 to cover the rest of the bill. When he goes home to try and explain it all to his wife, well, we don't have to tell you what Elaine has already purchased.

So, where can John find thirty grand in two weeks? High school pal Walter "Duff" Duffy (Tom Green) is the only man bright enough (right...) to come up with a workable plan. That means John's life is about to go to hell in a hand basket thanks to Duff's crooked uncle Jack (Seymour Cassel) who offers up his liquor store as a prime rip-off target. Our dynamic duo botch the heist, of course, which leaves another high school acquaintance and current organized crime-type slimeball David Loach (Chris Penn) as the only connection left who's got the cash. On their tail is Detective Charles (John C. McGinley) of the local cop force.

Even with his name in first position above the title, Tom Green is really playing a supporting role in this story, which is fine by us. Without having to work so hard to carry the day Green is actually, dare we say it?, funny. That being said, his role as the motivator of extraordinary plans to get the cash isn't big enough. Stealing Harvard has all the foundation needed to build a balls to the wall romp and it chooses not to go the distance.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Stealing Harvard, he would have paid . . .


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