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Paramount Pictures
Official Site
Director: Jake Kasdan
Producers: Scott Rudin, Van Toffler, David Gale, Scott Aversano
Written by: Mike White
Cast: Colin Hanks, Jack Black, Catherine O’Hara, Schuyler Fisk, John Lithgow, Lily Tomlin

Rating: out of 5

As a favor to my roommate, who has a sick infatuation with the comedy of Jack Black, I saw ORANGE COUNTY last night. (Yes, she dragged me to SAVING SILVERMAN last year, which was terrible, but still light years better than ORANGE COUNTY.) Man, I should have just rented HIGH FIDELITY again.

ORANGE COUNTY is the unforgivably dreadful story of an Orange County, California surfer-dude-turned-wannabe-fiction-writer named Sean (Hanks) trying to get into Stanford University. He gets rejected because his moronic high school counselor (Tomlin) sends the wrong transcript to Stanford. He, his stoner brother Lance (Black), and his faithful girlfriend (Fisk) take a road trip to Stanford to plead his case. They fail. Not only do they fail, Lance manages to burn down the Admissions Hall. And they accidentally give the Admissions Officer three hits of ecstasy. Then Sean’s rich parents donate a large wad of cash to Stanford and poof! he’s in. Of course, by then he’s decided he can be just as awful a writer in Orange County as he can at Stanford. And, still be surrounded by his idiotic friends, boring ass girlfriend, and totally bizarre family, none of whom redeem themselves in the slightest, even in the happy ending scene.

All the characters are so absurd and stereotypical that you won’t give two shits about what happens to them. His family members are a bunch of over-the-top freaks with major psychological issues. His mother (O’Hara) is an alcoholic and apparent manic-depressive who embarrasses him at every turn. His father (Lithgow) is the token rich, high-powered, selfish businessman. They are divorced and both have remarried—to an old man who constantly gets beat up throughout the movie, and a 20-something blonde trophy wife who fools around with the pool guy. But they get back together during the movie when they realize how much they really have in common —they’re both self-absorbed, materialistic, and unattractive.

Jack Black is in his underwear for most of the film and isn’t given much to work with, but what little there is is just no good. It’s a lot of physical humor and jokes about how dumb he is. ’Cause—heh heh heh—he, like, takes drugs a lot and stuff. Ashley, Sean’s unconditionally loving girlfriend, is a bleeding heart animal lover with no personality. Sean’s two surfer friends have the combined I.Q. of a piece of plywood.

What’s perplexing is how this movie got produced. Even more mysterious is the myriad of random, two-minute cameos by pretty major stars. Chevy Chase as the pedophilic high school principal who’d rather have Britney Spears speak at graduation than Toni Morrison. Lily Tomlin, as the aforementioned scatterbrained counselor. Kevin Kline as Sean’s writing hero, who really hasn’t much to say at all. Ben Stiller as a fireman. Maybe they forgot to read the script first? (Note: My guess is—famous parents called in some favors. Director Jake Kasdan and star Colin Hanks have famous daddies, and Schuyler Fisk’s mom is Sissy Spacek.)

Naturally, you walk into a movie like this having seen the trailer and therefore not expecting to be moved in any way by its story. But you do expect to laugh. I’m telling you, it’s not gonna happen. I can’t even begin to tell you how unfunny this movie is. Not just unfunny, next to unbearable. I would rather have spent those 88 minutes staring at a blank white wall. The soundtrack is sickening, the acting is contrived, all the characters are stereotypical and flat, and the writing is worse. There, I think I’ve made myself clear. I can now sleep with a clean conscience.

—Michelle Fajkus

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

It’s worth a full-price ticket.

It’s worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...

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