Case Number 02626

STEALING HARVARD

Sony // 2002 // 82 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // February 18th, 2003

The Charge

Their intentions were honorable,
Their methods were criminal.

Opening Statement

After the fiasco that was Freddy Got Fingered, you'd assume surreal comic Tom Green would lay low for a couple of billion years. But like a cockroach in a nuclear power plant, Green has survived against insurmountable odds. In fact, he was actually able to get himself into another movie, further proof of the existence of the Almighty Lord. In 2002, Green starred alongside funnyman/Kevin Smith regular Jason Lee (Mallrats, Dogma) in the wacky comedy Stealing Harvard. Also starring Dennis Farina (Big Trouble) and Emmy winner Megan Mullally (Will & Grace), Stealing Harvard graduates at the bottom of its class on DVD care of Columbia Home Entertainment.

Facts of the Case

John (Lee) seems to have a good life going for him. He's engaged to the beautiful Elaine (Leslie Mann, The Cable Guy) and works as a sales representative for medical devices at Homespital, owned by Elaine's grumpy, overbearing father (Farina), who has little love for John. After saving over $30,000 for a new home, Elaine and John decide that they're finally ready to get married and start their new life together. Unfortunately, one small detail stands in their way: John made a promise to his niece Noreen (Tammy Blanchard) that he would pay for her college tuition when she was only a child. Reminded of his promise by his sexually promiscuous trailer trash sister (Mullally), John now stands on the precipice of his future -- does he break his promise to his niece, or give her the money for college? Deciding to buy a house and keep his word, John turns to his best friend Duff (Green), a childish buffoon who may just have a plan to come up with the cash. These plans include breaking and entering, horse race gambling, and bank robbery, all of which bring about the attentions of a wildly fanatical detective (John C. McGinley, TV's Scrubs) bent on arresting Duff and John. As Duff's outrageous schemes unfold, the two would-be crooks find themselves in deep trouble as John attempts to provide his precious Noreen with a higher education!

The Evidence

Exactly when did Hollywood stop caring about their audiences? I remember a time when comedies were actually made as comedies. In just this past few years we've been given such bottom feeders as Saving Silverman, The Sweetest Thing, Serving Sara, The Master of Disguise, Corky Romano, Freddy Got Fingered, Say It Isn't So, a bunch of American Pie/There's Something About Mary knock offs, and about a dozen or so cruddy, lifeless laugh fests. Is anybody else out there seeing a dismal pattern?

Stealing Harvard continues this tradition by being a lazy, boring film with only a handful of slight chuckles in the entire story. The plot is as thin as paper, and just as light. A schmuck needs some money to pay for his niece's college fund. While there are a few very minor subplots (John and Elaine's relationship, et cetera), none of them are even remotely interesting. Stealing Harvard was directed by Bruce McCulloch, a former Kids in the Hall troupe member who also helmed the equally as bad Saturday Night Live based Superstar. So far, Mr. McCulloch's cinematic batting average is 0 for 2. Though I was impressed with how well he caged Tom Green's bizarre and annoying sense of humor, the movie never generates any funny situations or characters. Look, I enjoy watching a dog hump a man's leg as much as the next guy, but more than one scene of this joke gets tiresome pretty quick. The funniest moments came in the form of Richard Jenkins (TV's Six Feet Under) as a grieving, cross dressing judge. I don't know about you, but I had a hard time not smiling at Dennis Farina spooning with another man while decorated in a paisley dress and a blonde wig. Sadly, those moments are few and far between, and disappear just as fast.

Jason Lee plays his character as a subdued, boring yutz. Lee was sort of plucked out of obscurity by Kevin Smith in the eons funnier Mallrats. Since then he's been featured in the David Schwimmer bomb Kissing a Fool, the Lawrence Kasdan snoozer Mumford, and the Julia Stiles flick A Guy Thing. Does this guy need a new agent, or what? Tom Green appears to be on tranquilizers, as his usually chaotic persona is at an all-time low. I don't consider this a bad thing. The normally entertaining Dennis Farina lights up most of his scenes with his usual bulldog expressions, and a bald John C. McGinley parades around the scenery as if he's auditioning for the role of Superman's arch nemesis Lex Luthor. As for Megan Mullally...well, it's fairly obvious that on her off time from Will & Grace, she's just looking to pick up a paycheck, anywhere and anyhow she can. Playing almost the exact same character from her TV show, Mullally throws off only one good comeback (featuring too many dirty words to print here), then fades into the background. Which is exactly what this theatrical release ended up doing.

Here are my final thoughts on Stealing Harvard:

* Don't let Tom Green in front of a camera ever again.
* Jason Lee is allowed to star in a comedy ONLY if he's allowed to be sarcastic.
* Bruce McCulloch must, must, must return to Kids in the Hall.
* Please, no more dog humping jokes. Ever.
* Don't rent this film.

Follow these safety guidelines and you'll live a long and happy life.

Stealing Harvard is presented in an attractive looking 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Though this isn't the sharpest or most pristine looking image around, overall I was fairly impressed with how nice this picture looked. The colors and black levels were all solid and dark with only the slightest amount of edge enhancement in the image. Otherwise, this is a fine print of the film that should please fans.

The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English and French. Not surprisingly, this sound mix is fairly subtle -- though there are moments of directional effect and surround sounds, generally this is a front-heavy track that sports no distortion or hiss in the mix. I wouldn't consider this to be a great soundtrack, thought it's apt for the film that it's supporting. Also included on this disc are English and French subtitles.

Stealing Harvard did a quick swan dive upon its initial release in theaters, so let's not all look overly shocked when we find out that only a few extra features have been included on this disc, the meatiest being five deleted scenes presented in non-anamorphic widescreen. Aside of a different alternate ending to the film, none of these scenes would have added much to the final cut of the film. Also included on this disc are a few cast and crew filmographies, as well as theatrical trailers for Stealing Harvard, Stealing Harvard, Anger Management, xXx, The New Guy, Maid In Manhattan, and Darkness Falls.

Closing Statement

If I have to sit through just one more cruddy comedy featuring Tom Green, I'm gonna poke both my eyes out with a dull butter knife. Here is my plea to the Hollywood community: try witty writing instead of "I got kicked in the balls!" gags. Columbia's work on this disc is decent, and that's all that needs to be said.

The Verdict

Stealing Harvard is found guilty of being lackluster entertainment, and sentenced to three years service in a local community college!

Review content copyright © 2003 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 92
Audio: 87
Extras: 63
Acting: 74
Story: 52
Judgment: 63

Perp Profile
Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)

Subtitles:
* English
* French

Running Time: 82 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13

Distinguishing Marks
* Theatrical Trailers
* Deleted Scenes
* Filmographies

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0265808/combined

* Harvard University
http://www.harvard.edu/