Review by Michael Jacobson
Colin Hanks, Jack Black, Schuyler Fisk, Catherine O’Hara, John Lithgow,
Director: Jake Kasdan
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 82 Minutes
Release Date: June 18, 2002
WRITER?? What do you have to write
about? You’re not oppressed!
You’re not gay!”
it really Hollywood, The Next Generation?
Jake Kasdan feels that’s an unfair assumption when discussing his movie Orange
County, yet it’s a subject almost impossible to ignore.
When your two fresh-faced leads are the son and daughter respectively of
Tom Hanks and Sissy Spacek, one can’t help but scrutinize them to see if there
are glimpses of the magic that made their folks such major (and Oscar winning)
stars. Of course, Kasdan himself is
equally analyzed in his effort, being the son of acclaimed director Lawrence
as I said, are inevitable, but rather unfortunate. It’s impossible to hold the younger generation next to the
elder one on the basis of one movie. That
being said, I must offer that all three show great promise in a fledgling
effort. Colin Hanks seems to have
his father’s knack for playing a likeable everyman, and proves capable of
carrying our emotional investment for the duration.
Jake Kasdan shows a penchant for style and rhythm…if you overlook a few
technical gaffes here and there, one can easily imagine him capable of bigger
and better things in the future. And
Schuyler Fisk is a real find, showing a penchant for comedic acting not
necessarily associated with her famous mother.
course, practically no actor, regardless of age, status or experience, can steal
scenes away from Jack Black. His
rotund form and wicked grin makes you ready to laugh from his first appearance
on screen…then when he delivers his lines with comic accuracy and physical
flair, you’re at his mercy. His
star has been rising ever since High Fidelity, and he continues his
string of good works with this picture.
haven’t even begun to talk about the film itself, which is that very rare
breed of teen comedy that manages to cross the line from parody into true
satire. Think Heathers with
a good heart, and you get the picture.
takes place, as the title suggests, in Orange County, California, a place that
comes across exactly like all of us who have never been to California picture it
to be. It’s a surfer party
culture from top to bottom, where school takes place in architecture that’s so
horrifically gauche that you can only hope you’re not looking at a real school
(Kasdan informs us in the commentary that it IS real, amusingly enough) and is
taught by teachers who actually say things like “William Shakespeare, in his
day, was as famous as Leonardo DiCaprio”, and actually count Waterworld amongst
the films based on his plays!
Brumder (Hanks) would be just another typical high school student in this
saccharine environment, except for the fact that he’s a naturally good
student. His perception of life as
all waves and bonfires changes one night when he discovers a novel by author
Marcus Skinner (the actor is unbilled and a pleasant surprise, which I will not
spoil) buried in the sand. He reads
it over and over, begins to appreciate the power of the printed word, and
announces to the amazement of everyone that he wants to become a writer.
applies to Stanford, where Skinner teaches, and seems to be a shoo-in.
But a rejection letter comes, because the guidance counselor (Tomlin, in
a hysterical role) accidentally sent in a different student’s transcripts!
but not out, Shaun engages in a series of attempts to right this wrong and make
his dream come true. Helping him,
or at least trying to help, are his stoner brother Lance (Black) and his
insufferable girlfriend Ashley (Fisk). Not
so helpful are his selfish, inept divorced parents (O’Hara and Lithgow).
A scene where two representatives from Stanton visit Shaun’s home is
one of the most painfully funny I’ve seen in a long time, and I was grateful
for the pause button so I could catch my breath!
unlike most teen comedies that rely on plot (or crude attempts at one), Orange
County is smart enough to go for the jugular in hilarious ways.
Anyone could create an inept guidance counselor who accidentally ruins a
student’s life, but to have one do so and then try and diffuse the situation
by calmly telling the kid “it’s nobody’s fault, really” is tapped into
something. Or a principal who
forgoes a Nobel Prize winning author as a graduation speaker in favor of a close
personal friend of Britney Spears. The
whole picture is filled with asides, toss off lines and insights that could
easily be missed, but actually make up the soul of the film.
Writer Mike White may have successfully expanded the teen flick genre by
actually emphasizing true satire over…are you ready for this?…sex, which is
virtually non-existent here (save for one encounter involving Black…I will say
only flaw is that the movie loses its teeth at the end, and steers toward the
obligatory happy ending. There is
more resolution here than anyone would call for, and it’s dangerously close to
a kiss of death for a film that spent its entire preceding time laughing at how
bad things can get.
notwithstanding, I laughed loud and often during the film, I enjoyed the
performances by both newcomers and veterans alike, and I found much biting wit
in both White’s script and Kasdan’s sense of direction.
The irony is that in the end, this talented team may have created a film
that’s above the heads of some of the genre’s typical target audience…this
is a film more for people who laughed at M*A*S*H than the ones who
laughed at Not Another Teen Movie, which actually would have been a title
better suited for this film than the one that bore it.
delivers a quality anamorphic offering here, replete with California sun and
warm, natural coloring throughout. Indoors
and outdoors photograph sensually well, with good levels of detail and
definition, sharp lines, and well-rendered tones.
Apart from a light touch of grain in one or two darker scenes, this is a
solid offering from start to finish.
Black must have it written into his movie contracts that any film he appears in
has to have great songs in it. The
music is the main highlight of this 5.1 mix, which includes a lively and
appropriate collection of rock tunes accentuating the action.
Most of the film is dialogue oriented, however, and the spoken words all
come across cleanly and clearly. A
highlight of this DVD is not the commentary track by director Kasdan and writer
White, but the collection of MTV interstitials, which are numerous and
absolutely hysterical…I got almost as many laughs out of them as the movie
itself! As for the commentary, it
starts off rather weakly…both Kasdan and White come across like gleeful boys
who just committed their first prank…but it gets better as it goes along.
They discuss the actors at great lengths, including the inevitable
discussion about Hanks, Fisk and Kasdan’s famous lineage, and the assembling
of their dream cast, and more.
out are a trailer and four deleted scenes (including a bizarre extension of Lily
Tomlin’s big moment).