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Orange County

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Orange County

Starring: Colin Hanks, Jack Black
Director: Jake Kasdan
Rated: R
RunTime: 90 Minutes
Release Date: January 2002
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: John Lithgow, Catherine O'Hara, Lily Tomlin, Schuyler Fisk, Harold Ramis, Leslie Mann, Kevin Kline, Chevy Chase, Ben Stiller

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

"Orange County," thank goodness, is not another teen movie. Despite SOME references to drugs and a couple of harmless allusions to urine, and, oh well, yes, one character throws up on a manuscript but that scene lasts just five seconds, Jake Kasdan's film proves that there is life after all for clean-cut kids. They're not all squeaky trim, and sometimes the tidy ones are mere catalysts for the gross-outs, but all in all this is a fun movie with such excellent comic timing that maybe there is a future for adolescent comedies that dare NOT to be off-the-wall. Of particular note is its message that you don't have to go to Harvard, Stanford or Princeton to get a solid education. As the cliche goes, you get out of school what you put into it, a healthy note especially for the target audience of high-school juniors seniors and those thereabouts who should go big for this funny, well-acted piece of work--one which features crackerjack accomplishments by the sons and daughters of notables in the industry such as Colin Hanks (son of Tom Hanks), Schuyler Fisk (daughter of Sissy Spacek) and director Jake Kasdan (son of Lawrence Kasdan).

"Orange County" will appeal largely to those in the audience who have been influenced by one particular book that they've read either as a school assignment on their own. "Catcher in the Rye" was the seminal work for my generation while the dog-eared paperback that sways Shaun Brumder (Colin Hanks) to become a writer is a novel by a Stanford University professor (who comes on screen toward the conclusion of the tale in a nice cameo by Kevin Kline). Shaun is the one rational person in a wacky family composed of his druggie-slacker brother Lance (Jack Black), his loopy mom Cindy Buegler (Catherine O'Hara), a wheelchair- bound stepdad--and his biological father, Bud Brumder (John Lithgow) who wants his 17-year-old to do something with his life that's more lucrative than writing. Asked to name writers who have made it, Shaun comes up with three contemporaries, including Stephen King, to which dad replies, "Just three writers in the whole history of Western literature!" (Then again, Mike White is not doing too badly for himself either.)

The plot turns on the act of an incompetent guidance counselor (Lily Tomlin) who turns in the wrong transcript to Stanford, resulting in Shaun's rejection from the school. Eager to right the wrong, Shaun enlists his sloppy brother Lance to drive him and his girl friend Ashley to Stanford to confer personally with the dean. After an interview driven by the dean's accidental use of the drug ecstasy and an amusing liaison between Lance and the dean's assistant (Jane Adams), Shaun looks around the college and is disturbed to find that even the Harvard of the West is filled with kids who are no smarter or more ambitious than the zonked- out surfers in his own nabe.

"Orange County" is no challenge for Jack Black, who pretty- much repeats his laid-back roles from "Bob Roberts" to "Shallow Hal," but Colin Hanks is just plain lovable as the center of the tale--a nice kid making the most despite getting shafted by the people around him.

Copyright 2002 Harvey Karten

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