Excelling at Failure

Main Cast: Justin Long, Jonah Hill, Adam Herschman

Director: Steve Pink

Accepted reminds me a little bit of a newer, lesser, stupider Animal House. And I don’t mean that entirely as an insult. Mostly, but not entirely. The premise here is that Bartleby Gaines (Justin Long) does not get into any of the colleges to which he has applied. Having lived something of a Ferris Bueller-esque high school existence, he discovers that a knack for clever hijinks isn’t what institutions of higher learning are looking for at the present time. Due to different sets of circumstances, Bartleby has a couple of friends who find themselves in the same no-college boat. So these three geniuses, with B at the helm, set up fake college admissions letters to give them some time and breathing room in which to plan for their futures without parental disappointment or interference.

Of course, things do not go smoothly and they are forced to actually open their school – the South Harmon Institute of Technology. Yes, S.H.I.T. Thus ensues wacky tomfoolery, rivalry with neighboring Harmon College and a few good lessons learned by all.

Yeah, I know – it’s all just really, really stupid. But stick with me for a minute, place your disbelief high up on an unreachable shelf and shift your brain into low gear and you might enjoy Accepted just a little bit. Justin Long is a charming kid. He showed us that in Live Free or Die Hard and he shows it again here. Despite the massive implausibilities in virtually every single frame of this film, Long carries us with him to a degree. We like this kid. Not enough to be bowled over by his idiotic movie, but enough to at least play along for a little while.

When I mention Animal House, it’s that spirit of absolute and complete lunacy and lack of realism that marks these films as at least on the same spectrum of “kids not suited to traditional universities making their own rules and thriving in their own fabricated world for a little while”. While Animal House has the benefits of a stellar cast and an outstandingly funny script, Accepted unfortunately only has the mild mannered charisma of Justin Long. It’s not much, but it’s something. He is a likeable protagonist and does do a nice job handling the role of both instigator and lesson-learner with a cute little gleam in his eye and an earnest approach to his requisite moral epiphany. He has just enough decent caliber witty one-liners that he delivers with spot-on timing and a sassy, sarcastic deadpan to keep (at least some of) us from turning off the TV in disgust.

So really, Accepted is a stupid movie with an implausible premise and only a single decent performance in its favor. The script is filled with mediocre jokes and almost entirely shallow and unmemorable characters. The acting by everyone but Long is by the book and uninspired and most of the morals, pitfalls and other plot points have been filmed a hundred times over in better movies. Even the sets look fake and crappy.

So I know that by any sort of objective standard Accepted essentially sucks, I also know that sometimes a talented kid can charm his way through a pretty crappy movie and almost make it float. It’s still crappy, but it’s the right kind of crappy for a lazy day when no brain energy expenditure is desired. So if you feel in the mood for really good comedy, or original ideas, or a sharply written satire of the modern state of higher education, run as far and as fast as you can away from Accepted. If, instead, you’re in the mood to lay on your couch, eat candy, chuckle at Justin Long and save only enough energy for your nap later on, maybe you’ll give Accepted a try. I can’t really recommend it for anyone using higher brain function, but for those times when that isn’t what you’re after, I say give it a watch. 2 stars out of 5.

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