Fail grade for "College" calamity

Sun Aug 31, 2008 8:36pm EDT
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By Frank Scheck

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The current youth generation certainly is entitled to its own version of "National Lampoon's Animal House," but "College" isn't it.

The Weinstein Co./MGM's low-rent frat house comedy is at once far more vulgar and decidedly less anarchic than its obvious inspiration, and it flunked at the Labor Day holiday weekend box office, opening out of the top 10 with $2.1 million.

The plot revolves around three high school students -- straight-laced Kevin (Drake Bell), buffoonish fat boy Carter (Andrew Caldwell, channeling Chris Farley) and nerdy Morris (Kevin Covais) -- visiting a suburban college for an introductory weekend. Desperately trying to meet college girls, they fall victim to a fraternity house led by a nasty jock (Nick Zano) who promises to make them pledges for less than altruistic reasons.

But when the hapless threesome actually get lucky with a trio of college girls unaware of their high school status, the frat guys subject them to endless humiliations that eventually are paid back in spades.

One of the film's earliest images is of a pair of flabby male buttocks mooning the camera, which serves as a telling visual metaphor for the audience abuse that is to follow. The endless procession of witless gags -- most of them centering on bodily functions -- produced nary a single laugh at an opening-day showing. And the endless homosexual panic routines -- at one point, the boys are forced to drink body shots off a particularly hirsute naked man -- indicates that the screenwriters might have their own personal issues to work out.

Bell has a nice Jason Bateman-like understated quality, and Haley Bennett, as the college girl who sets her eyes on him, is equally appealing. But most of the members of the youthful ensemble are forced to mug ferociously, with dismal results.

Verne ("Mini-Me")Troyer also makes a cameo appearance, to little effect. Suffice it to say that his sex tape is likely to garner a higher position on his cinematic resume.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

<p>"Superhero Movie" cast member Drake Bell poses at the premiere of the film in Los Angeles, March 27, 2008. REUTERS/Chris Pizzello</p>