I suppose the worst thing that can be said about Accepted is that it’s thoroughly inconsequential. That’s also the best thing that can be said about it. Yes, Justin Long (Jeepers Creepers) is an agreeable screen presence (even if he’s a pretty unlikely high school senior at the age of 28) and you want to like the movie because of him. But he’s not enough to keep this lame, tame comedy afloat for 90 minutes. It might have helped if they’d gone for the full-blown raunch of an R rating — but it’d still have a tissue-thin premise and the clunky handling of screenwriter-turned-director Steve Pink.
Long stars as Bartleby (someone named a child Bartleby?) Gaines, a low-rent sharpster who likes to make a quick buck by turning out fake IDs for other students rather than apply himself to anything remotely resembling academics. As a result, it quickly emerges that Bartleby has been rejected by every college this side of, say, The Bangor Academy of Upholstery, Carpentry and Dentistry. Since Mom (Ann Cusack, Stigmata) and Dad (Mark Derwin, TV’s Heist) don’t cotton to the idea of no college and no one in this movie has ever heard of community college, our hero decides to create a bogus school that has accepted him — the South Harmon Institute of Technology. Yep, the initials are a joke — and a better barometer of the sense of humor here could not be imagined.
All that remains is to turn a disused psychiatric hospital (complete with a moldering corpse, the presence of which seriously disturbs no one) into a makeshift school to fool his dim-bulb parents. Unfortunately, his uber-nerd buddy, Schrader (Jonah Hill, I Heart Huckabees), has done the job of creating the nonexistent school too well; he includes a workable link on the Web site that claims, “Admission is only a click away.” So of course every misfit and whack-job in the world shows up bearing $10,000 each for a year’s tuition. Bartleby is so touched by his “students” that he doesn’t send them packing, and instead tries to turn the place into a quasi-legitimate institution.
Since the story has no discernible form, a plot involving the evil frat boys and the stuffy powers that be from the real Harmon College is brought into play. In true formula fashion this means it’s the misfits against the status quo with all the creativity we’ve come to expect from this badly deteriorated old chestnut. There’s nothing new here.
I’ve been reliably informed that the same basic story was done as Camp Nowhere in 1994 with a bogus summer camp standing in for the college and Christopher Lloyd as a phony camp director in approximately the same capacity as comic Lewis Black as a bogus dean here. (While I don’t mind watching many films related to the ones under discussion by way of research, I’m content to take this information on faith in this case.)
Worse, the film’s a mess even with the added plot. Not only is the premise an essay in preposterousness, it shifts around willy-nilly to suit the needs of the film. (First they break into the old hospital, later on they appear to have leased it.)
It’s hardly worth discussing the lack of merit in the whole “experiment in education” that the film finally decides is its theme, and it’s even less edifying to burrow into the ludicrous conclusion. But if — for whatever incomprehensible reason — you’re searching for a movie with maximum ennui value, this is that movie. Rated PG-13 for language, sexual material and drug content.
— reviewed by Ken Hanke