Herman Melville created the character Bartleby the Scrivener, a character whose passive resistance (made famous by the phrase “I prefer not to”) led to his own death by starvation. For Bartleby, resisting the establishment meant removing himself from the world. For Bartleby Gaines, the like named character created by Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, and Mark Perez, resisting the establishment means refusing rejection and defeat, and even creating his own college in an effort to become Accepted.
Bartleby Gaines is a high school slacker. His excellent abilities to spin truths and spout utter bullshit has managed to get him through high school, although the character, who probably isn’t even familiar with his literary namesake, has no chance at college. After being rejected from eight schools, Bartleby finally has to admit the truth to his parents. Rather than disappoint their expectations, Bartleby finds it easier to create his own school: the South Harmon Institute of Technology.
You’d think his parents would see through the ruse based on the anagram of the school’s name alone, but they quickly fork over the ten thousand dollar tuition money and plan on dropping Bartleby off at school… which means he has to create a school to be dropped off at. It isn’t long before South Harmon has a location, a Dean, and even, through a misunderstanding and an overly functional website, a student body. Bartleby finds college can be fun and educational, as long as nobody finds out the truth.
Accepted plays off a history of underdog college flicks like Animal House, Revenge of the Nerds, and even Old School with a typical story of underdogs trying to create something of their own. Accepted bucks the typical trend of creating a fraternity and goes for creating a whole school, allowing new opportunities for jokes beyond the fraternal humor that usually makes up these movies. Don’t get me wrong, that humor is in here too, but on top of that there’s the whole element of pulling a huge con over on parents, students, and even the Dean of the neighboring Harmon College, who wants the property the fake school sits on to create an extended boundary between his college and the world outside. The stakes are much higher and more interesting than just setting up another fraternity.
Most of Accepted’s success comes from Justin Long who, in the lead role, delivers his typical sarcastic humor. If you liked Long in Dodgeball, “Ed,” or even as a Mac in the Apple commercials, you’ll probably like him here. While his wit is what drives the movie, there’s a sincerity Long brings to the part. This easily could have been a live-action, older Bart Simpson type character, creating the school as an act of rebellion. Instead, Long makes the character believable as someone who is struggling with trying to really determine what higher education is about, and creating his school in an effort to help people find their place in the world. It’s the difference between the character as played by Long and as it might be played by Ryan Reynolds or Dane Cook, which would still be funny but less deep; a collegiate Waiting… instead of a movie with just the right amount of heart.
Sure, Accepted is another comedy about underdogs out to try and find a place for themselves, facing off against assholes and preppies with handsome, game show host looks. But considering the poor quality of those kinds of movies in recent years, this film really rises above to a level on par with predecessors like Old School or Revenge of the Nerds. While I wouldn’t say it’s an Animal House for a new generation, Accepted is, at the very least, acceptable.
The DVD release for Accepted is one of those that looks deceiving. While the case for the DVD only lists a few bonus materials, mostly promoting the inclusion of a trailer for the upcoming direct-to-video American Pie: The Naked Mile, there is actually a decent amount on the disc. As for that American Pie sequel, might I suggest skipping past the trailer for the latest travesty in Eugene Levy’s career, along with the other poor selection of trailers, and get straight to the good stuff on the disc.
The bonus materials kick off with “Adam’s Accepted Chronicles” which focuses on the poor man’s Pauly Shore from the movie, Adam Herschman, who plays weirdo Glen. The featurette takes a common approach to these kinds of featurettes lately, roasting the target. These kinds of featurettes can be highly entertaining when done properly, like the one located on the Slither DVD attacking Nathan Fillion. The problem with this one is that Accepted is Adam Herschman’s first and only film to date. He’s just not well known enough to pull this kind of humor off.
There is a typical behind-the-scenes, making-of featurette for the film. Typically these kinds of extras aren’t that interesting on comedies, but the cast here has something of value: Accepted is director Steve Pink’s first film. Between talking about that, the input of producer Tom Shadyac (Bruce Almighty), and stars like Lewis Black, the ten minute featurette is actually a lot of fun.
Most of the names mentioned above, Steve Pink, Lewis Black, Justin Long, Adam Herschman, as well as cast member Jonah Hill all collaborate for the film’s commentary track. With that many names involved the track does quickly deteriorate into two modes: everyone talking at once or nobody saying anything. When you can make out the conversation there is some really neat discussions going on, with an emphasis on lines and ad libs that couldn’t be cut. You quickly realize how much Pink allowed his cast to get away with deviating from the script and how much better the movie was because of it. There is also the impression that, if Pink was a more experienced director, the film could have been even funnier.
On top of those bonus materials, there are deleted scenes, which are mostly extended versions of scenes already in the movie. One or two of the deleted scenes might have improved the film since they are made up of material that is referenced but not seen. There is also a blooper reel, or, as my wife called it, a “bleeper reel,” nicknamed for the amount of bleeping that goes on as actors mess up. The biggest offender: Lewis Black, no surprise there. It’s probably a good thing the underage member of the cast, Hannah Marks, wasn’t in more of the movie. Tack on some music videos made up of raw footage and a “self-guided campus tour” that offers about a minute of footage about each of the film’s primary locations, and you’ve got a disc with a heck of a lot more on it than a trailer for a direct-to-video flick.
Accepted gets a pretty fair DVD release for a film that wasn’t as well received as it deserved. Oddly absent is an “unrated” edition of the film, a typical release for this kind of film. If you were one of the many who passed over Accepted when it was in theaters, this DVD is definitely worth your time.