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Dead Man on Campus

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Dead Man on Campus

Starring: Tom Everett Scott, Mark Paul Gosselaar
Director: Alan Cohn
Rated: R
RunTime: 96 Minutes
Release Date: August 1998
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: Poppy Montgomery, Lochlyn Munro, Randy Pearlstein, Corey Page, Alyson Hannigan, Mari Morrow

Review by Greg King
3 stars out of 4

Thankfully, this unheralded but surprisingly enjoyable comedy from the MTV channel eschews most of the clichés of the adolescent school genre. There's no psycho killer slashing his way through a hunky cast. There's no getting of wisdom through the pursuit of academic excellence. There's no discovering the pain of first love. There's none of the jocks versus the nerds stuff. There's not even the down trodden loser who eventually becomes a hero by bringing glory to his school through unlikely sporting prowess. Hell, there's not a whiff of football, basketball or even debating here.

Keen to pursue a medical career, honour student Josh (Tom Everett Scott, from That Thing You Do and the appalling An American Werewolf In Paris, etc) comes to Daleman College on a scholarship. His room mates are anything but the studious types. Kyle (Jason Segel) is a repressed former Catholic boys' school graduate who suddenly discovers the joys of sex and moves out. Cooper (Mark-Paul Gosselaar, from tv sitcom Saved By The Bell, etc) is a smooth scam artist who plans to do anything but study during his college years. Cooper quickly leads Josh into a routine of heavy partying, and his grades quickly drop.

Faced with losing his scholarship, Josh needs to turn his grades around. Meanwhile, Cooper's father, a wealthy business man who runs a toilet cleaning company, promises Cooper that if he doesn't graduate he will learn the family business from the bottom up (so to speak). The pair find a hint of salvation through an arcane and almost forgotten college by-law that guarantees passing grades to students on compassionate grounds if their roommate suddenly dies.

The hunt is on for the pair to find the most neurotic, potentially suicidal kid in school and move him into their room before pushing him over the edge. Intensive research uncovers three likely prospects. Cliff (Lochlyn Munro), a true party animal who lives dangerously, but seems invulnerable; Buckley (Randy Pearlstein, from The Cowboy Way, etc), a paranoid schizophrenic who believes everyone is out to get him, especially computer billionaire Bill Gates; while Matt (Aussie actor Corey Page, from Heartbreak High, etc), a depressed heavy metal rocker, is not quite what he seems.

Dead Man On Campus takes its unusual premise from a famous urban legend and milks it for laughs. Given the subject matter, there's plenty of potential for a wicked black comedy, but first time feature director Alan Cohn keeps proceedings light and upbeat. There are plenty of funny moments throughout, and the film unfolds with lots of slapstick humour and energy. The pace picks up in the second half during the frantic search for the perfect suicidal room mate.

Performances are more than adequate for this type of film, although Gosselaar brings plenty of easy going charm to his role as the scheming Cooper. Scott also brings a manic energy to his role as the increasingly frustrated and desperate Josh.

Produced under the auspices of MTV (other features include Joe's Apartment and Beavis And Butthead Do America), Dead Man On Campus boasts a solid soundtrack of cutting edge, contemporary rockers. Dead Man On Campus is not a cinematic masterpiece, nor does it have pretensions towards having anything deep and meaningful to say. However, it offers plenty to satisfy and will certainly amuse its targeted audience.

Copyright © 2000 Greg King

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