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