Orange County Review
For Shaun Brumder (Colin Hanks), life in Orange County, California, is pretty good. He enjoys surfing, has a sweet girlfriend in Ashley (Schuyler Fisk). Okay, his brother Lance (Jack Black) may be drug-addled and his mother (Catherine O’Hara) permanently on the verge of cracking up, but he can live with that. However, one day, Shaun finds a copy of the novel Straight Jacket by Marcus Skinner on the beach. He reads it, and rereads it, and decides that he wants to become a writer. He wants to study at Stanford University, where Skinner (Kevin Kline) teaches. So he applies himself to his studies, his grades improve no end. All is going well until the day when, due to a screw-up by his high school guidance counsellor, Stanford reject Shaun. How can Shaun fix this?
To get the obvious out of the way first, Orange County is a showcase for second-generation Hollywood talent. Colin Hanks is the son of Tom, and Schuyler Fisk the daughter of Sissy Spacek and production designer and occasional director Jack Fisk. The film is the second feature (after Zero Effect) of twentysomething Jake Kasdan, Lawrence’s son. The Kasdan connection no doubt explains the presence of John Lithgow, Harold Ramis, Lily Tomlin, Chevy Chase and Kline in what amount to extended cameos, not to mention an uncredited bit from Ben Stiller.
Written by Mike White, Orange County is watchable, not unpleasant, but ultimately rather inconsequential film that seems drawn out even over this short running time. Hanks Junior doesn’t (at least not yet) have his father’s quality of everyman likeability, and Shaun comes across as somewhat uptight and not easy to empathise with. Fisk is in a bland girlfriend role. It’s left to the supporting cast to steal the show, particularly Black, who has the stoner routine down pat, sitting in front of a TV set in vest and underpants. There are a few chuckles along the way, and it’s nice to see a Hollywood movie extolling the virtues of literature, but this is hardly the most essential movie out there right now.