College comedies haven’t changed much since the eighties, and Accepted isn’t interested in being an innovator. It’s the same story over and over again. A group of lovable losers set up the perfect college experience only to have it foiled by good looking frat boys or an uptight college dean. The losers fight back with all the wacky antics they can muster and everything is wrapped up in 90 minutes with an impassioned speech from the lead loser about the importance of their slacker dream. Can’t we all just get along?
We get it. Good looking people hate ugly people. It’s not enough that good looking people are statistically more likely to get better jobs, find better mates, and make more money than the rest of us. Apparently they have to hate us as well. Since they seem to get all the breaks in life while we get absolutely nothing maybe it’s us, the uglies of the world, who should be pretty pissed off.
But Bartleby Gaines (Justin Long) isn't pissed off at being ugly, he’s angry because he didn’t get accepted to college. Apparently he’s never heard of Community College, so he starts his own school, funded with the money his parents think they’re paying him for tuition. He calls it the South Harmon Institute of Technology, which officially makes the school S.H.I.T. Bartleby is a Shithead, and soon all of his loser friends want to be Shitheads too. Bartleby rents an insane asylum next door to the real Harmon College, renovates it enough that it’ll pass as a University when inspected by unwary parents, and then hires his best friend Shermon’s Uncle, a washed up college professor turned conspiracy theorist played by comedian Lewis Black, as his stand-in Dean.
If there’s a highlight to the film it’s Dean Lewis and his wild rants about the failure of society and the futileness of higher education. In fact, scrap the script and give us a Lewis Black concert movie and you might really have some. The rest of the movie is pretty predictable stuff. The frat boys from the real school next door get jealous and go to war with South Harmon, Bartleby lusts after the head frat boy’s hot girlfriend; Shermon gets hazed and ends up in a hot dog costume begging people to ask him about his wiener. Eventually the S.H.I.T. hits the fan and Bartleby’s school for losers is put in jeopardy. Guess who comes out on top in the end?
Justin Long isn’t bad as a comedic lead. He’s good at walking into doors and tripping over couches, but the guy may have a serious typecasting problem. He’s been kicking around Hollywood in teen comedies for awhile now, but he’s really gotten people’s attention recently in those rather great Mac computer commercials. Though you might have known his work pre-Mac, it’s hard to look at him now and think of him as anything other than that guy from those commercials. Maybe he should have picked a less creative advertising campaign to star in, something really lousy that people would be more likely to forget. Now he’s the Mac computer guy, which puts him up there in a class with the Dell computer guy. As an actor, that’s probably not a good place to be in.
Accepted is a harmless enough college campus comedy. It takes a tired old recipe and follows all the usual steps accurately. I guess that’s not much of endorsement. The movie comes with a few funny moments, but probably not enough to justify going out of your way to verify their existence. Skip it, and catch Lewis Black in one of his guest stints on “The Daily Show” instead.