Must Hear Music
Reviews Archives
Bargain Basement
Music DVD
Send Us Mail
Contact Us

Pumpkin (R)
Official Site
Directors: Anthony Abrams, Adam Larson Broder
Producers: Francis Ford Coppola, Christina Ricci
Written by: Adam Larson Broder
Cast: Christina Ricci, Hank Harris, Brenda Blethyn, Marisa Coughlan, Dominique Swain, Sam Ball, Melissa McCarthy

Rating: out of 5

You’ll likely laugh a lot while watching Pumpkin, but in order to understand what the film is trying to accomplish, it’s important to ask yourself what it is you’re laughing at. After all, here’s a film that attacks society’s perceptions of what constitutes the term “different”—whether it be color, size, or mental acuity—and wrings laughs from it, an objective that can only result in one of two things: an enlightened narrative or an offensive one.

An offensive narrative would ridicule its subjects, making them into stereotypes who don’t warrant compassion so much as condescension. An enlightened narrative, on the other hand, mocks those who do the condescending, giving a voice to their obvious biases so that the audience hates them, not the people they disdain.

Certainly, there has been debate regarding which side of the fence Pumpkin stands on, but I believe the film comfortably rests within the enlightened camp. It’s a smart movie—reminiscent of, if not as good as, Election—a razor-sharp commentary on the often vanilla-bland vacuity of sororities and the transparent “good” they try to do through community service.

The sorority in Pumpkin is the fictional Alpha Omega Phi, whose sisters include fanatical president Julie Thurber (Coughlan), frizzy-haired rebel Jeanine Kryszinsky (Swain), token minority Anne Chung (Krusiec), and perpetually perky Carolyn McDuffy (Ricci). Julie is determined that Alpha Omega Phi win Sorority of the Year, a prize she thinks is in the bag after choosing the Challenged Games as its charity, as well as securing two minority rushes (she comforts herself by noting that the Filipino candidate has “cute, Caucasian features”).

It’s through the Challenged Games that Carolyn meets Pumpkin Romanoff (Harris), whose event is the discus despite the fact that he is mostly confined to a wheelchair. At first, Carolyn is unnerved by Pumpkin, but then she begins to fall for his inner beauty, compassion, and most of all, his flattering remarks about her. She tries to overcome her feelings by setting him up with her date-challenged friend Cici Pinkus (McCarthy), but fails to tell her that he is mentally handicapped (“Cici, you know what rejection is like,” Carolyn explains). Despite her efforts, Carolyn can’t help falling for Pumpkin, which angers her tennis star boyfriend Kent Woodlands (Ball), Pumpkin’s alcoholic mother Judy (Blethyn), and the rest of her sorority.

Sick of life at her “judgmental” university, Carolyn decides to leave school and attend community college, an effort foiled by the fact that she has too many credits. Instead, she transfers to Long Beach Tech, where she spends her time longing for Pumpkin and writing atrociously bad poetry (the pure awfulness of her “Ode to Pasadena” rivals Julia Stiles’ climactic final poem in 10 Things I Hate About You).

Pumpkin works so well because it not only addresses what many consider the last remaining taboo, but also the various movie clichés audiences are force-fed on a weekly basis (Kent’s vehicular fate is a perfect example). At the same time, it provides us with situations that are far from cliché and definitely not predictable. The characters may be dumb, but the movie is smart, mostly because its inherent goofiness is part of the in-joke (it’s not very often that you find a film in which the smartest character is mentally challenged). 

The acting, too, is stellar, especially by Ricci who revels in Carolyn’s dumb blond routine, and by Ball, whose good-guy portrayal of Kent makes it even more surprising when the character goes bad (he was also phenomenal in the underappreciated Urbania). Coughlan also does a good job as the bitchy Julie, and Harris brings both a sympathetic and deftly humorous edge to Pumpkin.

I’m certain that many people will feel uncomfortable after seeing Pumpkin—to laugh or not to laugh, that is the question. It’s a film that makes you contemplate how you should feel about it, and in the end, that’s okay. After all, it’s better than most movies, which don’t make you think at all.

—Erin Steele


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...

Mike Doughty

none now

South By Southwest 2014
David DeVoe

South By Southwest 2013
David DeVoe

Red Hook Music Festival
George Dow

SXSW 2012
David DeVoe

Our Favorite Records 2011
Hybrid Staff

Rachel Fredrickson

Rachel Fredrickson

Warped Tour 2011
Rachel Fredrickson

Eddie Spaghetti
Melissa Skrbic-Huss

Murder By Death
Mike DeLeo

Mike Doughty
Boulder, CO

Denver, CO

Imagine Dragons
Denver, CO

Cambridge, MA

Young Magic
Denver, CO

Warped Tour 2012
Denver, CO

Denver, CO

Mike Doughty
Denver, CO

Kansas City, MO

Other Lives
Lawrence, KS

Los Campesinos
Boston, MA

The Civil Wars
Lawrence, KS

Ha Ha Tonka
Lawrence, KS

Lawrence, KS

hybridmagazine.com is updated daily except when it isn't.
New film reviews are posted every week like faulty clockwork.
Wanna write for hybrid? Send us an e-mail.
© 1996-2009 [noun] digital media. All rights reserved worldwide. All content on hybridmagazine.com and levelheadedmusic.com is the intellectual property of Hybrid Magazine and its respective creators. No part of hybridmagazine.com or levelheadedmusic.com may be reproduced in any format without expressed written permission. For complete masthead and physical mailing address, Click Here.