2002, PG-13, 83 min. Directed by Bruce McCulloch. Starring Seymour Cassel, Chris Penn, John C. McGinley, Richard Jenkins, Megan Mullally, Dennis Farina, Leslie Mann, Tom Green, Jason Lee.
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Sept. 13, 2002
Stealing Harvard is about a good man feebly attempting a life of crime. Life imitating art: The result is a corps of good actors stuck with feeble, unfunny material that could easily pass as a crime against the moviegoing public. Chief among the offenses would be the absolute waste of the likable Jason Lee, who plays a nice guy driven to numbskull antics, like trying to rob a liquor store with a plastic toy gun, in order to fund his niece's freshman year at Harvard. To add insult to injury, the terrific supporting players aren't given a damn thing to do but slip into some well-worn clichés and try not to squirm too much. The venerable Seymour Cassel -- muse to such disparate talents as John Cassavetes and Wes Anderson -- pops up for a few minutes of foul-mouthed inanity, then disappears for good (off chortling, one can only hope, and counting the cash he made off such an easy gig). And then there's Tom Green (a dead ringer for that raggedy guy from American Movie, Mark Borschardt); his absurdist pranks, in the right context, always sound dumb, but sometimes are kinda funny. Not so here: Green licking a plate of microwaved cheese really is just as dumb as it sounds. The hit list continues: In his follow-up to the equally insipid Superstar and Dog Park, director Bruce McCulloch may have finally cancelled out all that good karma he earned from two decades of serving in Kids in the Hall. Or maybe not: A short, uninspired cameo from McCulloch scored a smattering of applause and one of the bigger laughs at the sneak preview. But then, when your competition for top prize in the "oh, that's funny" department is tough-guy Dennis Farina in a dress and a dog with a yen for humping Tom Green, then I guess the sight of McCulloch is something to cheer. Or lament, knowing the much, much funnier places this man has been. Still, with all the wrong Stealing Harvard has done, it at least bestows one gift upon its audience: the gift of forgettableness. Twelve hours later, you'll be hard-pressed to find 400 words to say on the film. The image of Tom Green and that plate of cheese may linger longer, but, with time, that too shall pass.