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Orange County

Want to see Homer Simpson re-incarnated as a middle aged, pill popping, live action human being? Then you just might enjoy a taste of Orange County.

Orange County features a cast and crew of celebrity progeny, starting from its director Jake Kasden, right through stars Collin Hanks (son of Tom Hanks) and Schuyler Fisk (daughter of Sissy Spacek). But don’t let that fool you; parental celebrity has not a thing to do with it. Collin Hanks is Shaun Brumder: Orange County surfer turned aspiring writer. However, in the land of Brittney Spears, posh lifestyles, and dysfunctional parents, no one seems to be interested in his plans for the future. His only hope of escape is an application to Stanford, which without a little help, just might be totally botched.

Orange County may be called some sort of teen movie, but it is truly nothing of the sort. Rather, Orange County is a simple, fun, occasionally insightful, laugh out loud comedy, the likes of which is much rarer than it seems. The real highlight is of course the always underused stylings of idiot savant Jack Black, donning the latest in Homer Simpson fashion attire to tackle the role of Brumders’s older drugged out, do nothing brother.

True, there’s not nearly enough of Black in the first half of the film to keep the audience rolling, but Hanks fills in nicely, with the trademark laid back Hanks charm he apparently shares with his father. It’s quite a nice setup really, for when Black leaps onto the stage, popping from scene to scene between Hank’s moments of sincerity to interrupt with some needlessly hilarious screw up and even more entertaining fireball madness.

Even Spacek’s daughter, Schuyler is quite impressive in her equally likeable role as Brumder’s supportive, bleeding heart love interest. In fact, so capable is her performance and that of her fellow celebrity spawnlings, that it is actually quite easy to believe their claims that these particular roles were received on merit, not on the coattails of parental Oscar status.

The best thing is, someone has actually managed to make a movie about teenagers without a pretty boy jock, or some snotty cheerleader heroine. Nor is it bland, homogenized, ripped off, cliché, or any of the other hundreds of things we have all come to expect from any movie feature a cast of people under the age of 25. Everyone isn’t either a cool kid or a nerd, nor is everyone running around trying to “get the girl.” It’s hard to believe, but there is actually more to teenage life than sex, beer, and football.

Then there’s the soundtrack, which is one of the loveliest mixes of modern alternative music I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching harmoniously inserted into any film to date. So often when movies try to use “newer” bands to score their flick, it ends up being an angry homage to who’s who in teenage rock and roll. However, Orange County instead cranks out great tunes from talented bands that actually FIT with the film. You actually get the impression that the guys writing the songs might have even SEEN the film before handing in their latest hit.

Jack Black is genius, but ultimately, the show belongs to the easy lovability of Collin Hanks. He’s not ready to carry this film by himself, so he’s been surrounded by an amazing cast of disfunctionals, bleeding hearts, and losers, all of whom, from mother and father, to big farting brother, bring so much creativity to this little film, that it’s easy to forget the little lulls and occasional lapses of blandness that do crop up every now and then.

Orange County isn’t likely to be the best anything of 2002. However, feel free to sit down and bite into the juicy, super-sweet goodness of Collin Hanks and his rag tag cast of friends. It’s nice to see a film that knows it’s place… and doesn’t mind being there.