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Frat Pack Tribute Movie Review: Accepted

Review by Rick Duran

In Accepted, Frat Pack pledges Justin Long and Jonah Hill take an American Pie-flavored stab at making the next Animal House or Old School. The film’s completely unbelievable plot and teen-friendly humor detract from its quality, but Long’s star-turn makes Accepted’s application worth considering (though only on video or television.)

The plot is familiar; faced with the competitive process of applying to college, fake ID creator Bartleby Gaines (Long) decides to forge an acceptance letter to the South Harmon Institute of Technology (S.H.I.T., a joke this PG-13 comedy uses as much as possible.) With the help of his best friend (and web designer) Sherman Schrader (Hill), Bartleby is able to fool his parents.  Schrader is accepted into Harmon University, the town’s main college, which South Harmon is designed to look like its “sister school” at a nearby abandoned mental institution. What Bartelby doesn’t realize is the Harmon Dean is looking to demolish his South Harmon building, and will use the president of the fraternity (Kellan Lutz as “Dwayne”), which Schrader is trying to rush, to tear the building down. Add the fact that a glitch on the South Harmon website allows 300 students to automatically enroll (willing to pay the $10,000 tuition), in addition to Bartelby being in love with Dwayne’s girlfriend (Blake Lively as “Monica”), and you’ve got the entire plot.

The story takes way too many liberties, such as how Bartelby’s suspicious parents somehow believe their son’s bumbling lies, and the South Harmon student’s acceptance of their school having no classes or faculty.  The fact that Bartelby’s scheme could last for a few weeks takes the script’s characters for complete fools. However, this is a teen comedy, so the audience is expected to push those problems aside for the first 80 minutes. Besides, we have the Schrader character to remind us that S.H.I.T. will soon hit the fan (surprisingly, that pun isn’t used in the film.) So we have college freshmen going wild, with only one adult present (Schrader’s drunken Uncle Ben posing as Dean/Professor, played by The Daily Show’s Lewis Black.)

That’s a formula for 90 minutes of sex, drugs, and rock ’n roll, right? Well, one out of three isn’t bad. The rock ‘n roll is present, with an excellent soundtrack featuring rock veterans The Cure, Pixies, Weezer and Green Day, in addition to numbers by The Hives and Ryan Adams (the same “To Be Young” song played in Old School), and some interesting Beatles and Simple Minds covers by composer David Schommer. But the film plays it safe on the sex and drugs, even avoiding any major alcohol consumption (some light drinking is present, but no major scenes.) Even the film’s supposed stoner only alludes to “getting high off of flavor.”  South Harmon also accepts a few strippers as students, one being all too willing to prove, yet the film never fully plays on it. While many comedies have pushed boundaries with PG-13 ratings, Accepted comes off as American Pie’s virgin cousin.

All these problems taken into consideration, why did I suggest giving the film a chance on video or television?  Accepted finally gives Justin Long the chance to shine as a likable straight man, after off-the-wall supporting roles in Dodgeball and The Break-Up. Long’s Bartelby Gaines skates through the film with both confusion and ease. The film’s (completely ridiculous) final confrontation between Bartelby and the Board of Accreditation, allows Long to give a crowd-pleasing monologue that suggests a successful future in leading roles. Justin Long completely wins over the film’s audience, much like he predictably does with the Board. Regardless of the nonsense coming out of his mouth, he’s a good guy; the sole redeeming factor of an overall bad idea.

As for the supporting cast, rising star Jonah Hill does alright as the geeky best friend. Unfortunately, his best moments (the high pitched scream and the hot dog costume) have been over saturated and spoiled in the commercials/trailers. Perhaps the film would’ve been better had Hill attended South Harmon and the script developed some other arc between the two schools. However, Hill’s character disappears for most of the second act, so he doesn’t have many scenes to be completely effective in. Likewise, Lewis Black is hilarious in his few scenes, also isn’t given much to work with. He drops the film’s one F-bomb, and his character shows how the film could’ve let its hair down more.

In general, Accepted is harmless fluff that a casual viewer shouldn’t expect much from. Its three main stars (Long, Hill, Black) are humorous, but this is definitely comedy with the brakes on. In terms of the Frat Pack Hall of Fame, Accepted will rank alongside Orange County, rather than the honor roll next to Old School (whom this film’s ending borrows both a random car explosion and a soundtrack cut.)  This film might become a more essential viewing if Long or Hill develop into major comedy stars, but for now, it’s not a requisite material.

**

Justin Long (left) and Jonah Hill

Lewis Black