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Thursday, Aug. 17, 2006 07:14 am

School for slackers

As a flick, Accepted underachieves

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Accepted Running Time: 1:30 Rated PG-13

If I were to compare the new college “comedy” Accepted to a food item, it would be a saltine cracker — bland and about as exciting as a senior-citizen rocking-chair contest. Directed by first-timer Steve Pink, the film tries to sport a hip attitude, but it’s a tired retread, a pale imitation of funnier, smarter college comedies such as Animal House, Back to School, and even, heaven forbid, National Lampoon’s Van Wilder.

Bartleby (Justin Long) is the sort of kid who doesn’t need to go to college and knows it. A bullshit artist extraordinaire and a charmer who could sell space heaters along the Amazon, Bartleby’s a quick thinker and a natural survivor, but his father (Mark Derwin) thinks college is the only path to success. Too bad Bartleby’s screwed around in high school and can’t get accepted anywhere. And he’s not the only one facing this dilemma: Whiz kid Rory (Maria Thayer) was so sure of her acceptance into Harvard that it was the only school she applied to, but then she didn’t get in; star footballer Hands (Columbus Short) sees his college prospects evaporate after he is injured. To solve this problem, the three rejects decide to make up a college.

Logic is as foreign to this film as soap is to Charlie Brown’s stinky buddy Pigpen. How convenient it is that there’s a rundown mental hospital for the kids to renovate. And it isn’t it amazing how the film’s central trio plus slacker extraordinaire Glen (Adam Herschman) can whip this place into shape when their folks decide to visit? The film doesn’t explain the source of the money for the project, either.

There are some occasional laughs, but they’re far too few for the film to build up a comedic head of steam. As hundreds of other slackers flock to the South Harmon Institute of Technology (check out the initials), they decide to come up with a curriculum that reflects their interests and provides more than a few chuckles. Far more effective is Lewis Black, the angry comedian who, as the institute’s dean of students, delivers one pointed diatribe after another, extolling nonconformity and anarchy at every turn. Black’s appeal has always been his razor-sharp bite. Had the rest of the film been as edgy, Accepted might have been a satire worth its salt. As it is, this flick, just like its characters, is a real underachiever.

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