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Case Number 05053

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National Lampoon's Dorm Daze: Unrated Edition

MGM // 2003 // 97 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // August 25th, 2004

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All Rise...

This movie takes Judge David Johnson back to his college years: hookers, bags of cash, and tons of washed-up child celebrities. Ah! Those were the days!

The Charge

College freshmen. Virgin territory.

Opening Statement

Seemingly the de facto distributor of college comedies these days, National Lampoon has unsheathed yet another raunchy roll-in-the-hay of higher education. The movie proclaims its unrated label and flaunts cleavage all over its disc jacket, but contained within is a boring, tepid, and contrived flick that is all heavy breathing and no laughs.

Facts of the Case

The aforementioned heavy breathing comes not from naughtiness but from all the running around the characters do in this movie. Dorm Daze is essentially a series of increasingly preposterous misunderstandings, framed against the personalities of greedy, stupid, horny teenagers. Now, there's nothing inherently wrong with greedy, stupid, horny teenagers; they've provided profound comedy fodder in many movies, but a greedy, stupid, horny teenager is only as good as the material around him or her, and the plot of Dorm Daze is just too forced.

But more on that later. Let us turn our attention to the cast of Dorm Daze. Most of the kids are "Izzys," short for "Isn't (s)he the kid from ___________?" I present, the players:

• Claire (Tatyan Ali, the kid from Fresh Prince of Bel Air)
• Cliff (James DeBello, the kid from Cabin Fever)
• Marla (Danielle Fishel, the kid from Boy Meets World)
• Booker (Chris Owen, the kid from American Pie)
• Styles (Patrick Renna, the chunky kid from The Sandlot)

As for the plot, I'll give you just the basics. The movie exists on the relentless misunderstandings and coincidences that befall its characters, and as the flick soldiers on, the hijinks get more and more convoluted. Basically, it's Christmas time in a dorm at "Billingsley College," where the unlikely scenario of an R.A. that's left the dorm unattended transpires. Cue insanity.

Styles McFee is intent on getting his brother, Booker…err, intimate, for the first time and orders a hooker named Dominique. Amazingly, at the same time on the same day, a foreign exchange student also named Dominique shows up at the dorm.

Also, another student has been mistaken as some major player in a shady cash deal, and suddenly, faster than you can say "highly unlikely," a bag full of $30,000 is thrown into the mix. As more and more students learn about the cash (and the hooker), alliances are brokered, backs are stabbed, relationships are torn asunder, and the chances for widespread anarchy exponentially increase. Throw in an utterly superfluous fantasy sequence featuring a former Playmate, and there's your movie.

The Evidence

Watching this flick, the major inhibitor to my Amusement Gene was my This-Crap-Ain't-Funny Detector hormone. The transparently contrived situations that the characters fall into I can forgive—if there were some halfway hilarious gags strewn throughout. But the chuckles are so few and far between, Dorm Daze takes its position on the Funny Movie Spectrum somewhere between The Exorcist and Amistad.

For example, when a mysterious package arrives for "Britney," one of the characters responds with "Britney Spears?!" Ha. Great. Or there's Renna's hamfisted overacting as Styles, the "obnoxious kid," screaming "Bitch!" and "Whore!" over and over as if he were doing his best to purge all memories of his Disney roles from the public consciousness (one day, I pray that comedy writers will realize that repeatedly saying "whore" is only funny if you're Norm MacDonald).

The progression of the narrative hinges on unlikely actions and coincidences. Like the same names of the hooker and the foreign exchange student. Or the fact that Claire's bag and the money bag are exactly the same. Or when Claire overhears her boyfriend rehearsing a play with another girl, and thinks he's confronting some tramp he's been sleeping with and forcing her to have an abortion (an appropriate Christmas play no doubt) and opts to fume and not confront him. Or the old "love-letter-switcheroo" that has been beaten senseless in every TV show ever made.

All of these shenanigans take place with the kids wildly running here and there, cheesy music playing incessantly in the background; Dorm Daze is a super-sized episode of Saved by the Bell with nipples.

MGM has loaded this disc with extras, and put forth a notable technical effort as well. The movie sports a clean widescreen transfer and Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that is appreciated, but unsurprisingly subdued. Comedies like these will rarely have reasons to push your home theatre set-up.

Bonus content is copious. The disc features a mostly technical commentary by producers/directors David and Scott Hillenbrand and editor Dave O'Brien, three deleted scenes, a gag real, a "National Lampoon's Master Debaters" spot, the trailer, and a bizarre featurette on the brief fantasy scene (which I translated as an excuse to show more nudity; seriously, do we really care what Playboy Playmate Katie Lohmann thinks about working with the kid from The Sandlot?!).

Closing Statement

Gone, apparently, are the days of the Griswolds and "Bluto" Blutarsky. National Lampoon is now eviscerating the corpse of witless teen comedy.

The Verdict

Guilty for delivering an unfunny and unsexy college romp, National Lampoon is sentenced to ten years on a work farm draining cow pustules.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 85
Audio: 85
Extras: 90
Acting: 60
Story: 50
Judgment: 74

Perp Profile

Studio: MGM
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Unrated

Distinguishing Marks

• Director/Producer/Editor Commentary
• Gag Reel
• Deleted Scenes
• "He Said, She Said: Behind the Scenes of the Fantasy Sequence"
• "National Lampoon's Master Debaters"
• Trailer


• IMDb

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