Stealing Harvard Review
Do you like Tom Green? If you do then you might like this film, though those expecting the outrageousness of Freddy Got Fingered will be disappointed as no horses get ‘jacked-off’ and no dead babies get swung around the room by their umbilical cords. It’s fair to say, and by and large an unequivocal fact, Stealing Harvard is a better film than Green’s earlier movie outing, but that isn’t saying much. Indeed, saying Tom Green is the best thing about this film may leave most people heading towards other lightweight, stupid comedies, however he is very funny here. The main problem in director Bruce McCulloch’s film is that it’s desperately disjointed, and its star Jason Lee looks lost without Kevin Smith’s long-winded cultural diatribe – it’s only a watchable piece of entertainment when Mr Green is ‘gracing’ the screen.
Stealing Harvard (barely) tells the story of John (Lee), who has to find $30, 000 to send his niece to college. He enlists the help of his friend Duff (Green) and they try to come up with ways to make the money, from breaking into someone’s house and stealing it from the safe, to raiding a local liquor store. Unsurprisingly, his attempts (hilariously) fail miserably with strangely unique circumstances.
There’s a running gag that works really well involving a wig, a dress and a Polaroid camera, and some of the bumbling twosome’s antics bring a smile to your face, but most of the film just feels awfully tired and rushed. The script simply isn’t good enough and clearly Green is improvising many of his lines. Writer Peter Tolan does get the two main characters to play off one another nicely, leading to some of the film’s better comedic moments (they argue about fake names before raiding the liquor store with Duff saying, ‘I want to be called Kyle - I knew this guy at camp, he was like 13, he got two girls pregnant man, TWO GIRLS PREGNANT!’). However, Tolan’s over-reliance on voice-over to express largely unneeded exposition grates terribly, and he fails to bring any real ‘spice’ to the many supporting characters. Dennis Farina, Richard Jenkins and John C. McGinley give their best to the limited material - Jenkins is memorable for the line: ‘I’m not a homosexual you understand, I just miss my wife very much’ (yes, this has something to do with the terrific running gag), it’s just a shame the great supporting cast couldn’t have been given better material.
Director McCulloch fails to overcome the problems off Tolan’s page, and never once gives us the opportunity to like any of the characters – we just don’t care whether John’s niece goes to Harvard (this is the main point of the story yet it finds itself on fire on the back-burner). Meanwhile throughout this, John’s fiancée believes he’s having an affair and she’s plotting with her father (John’s boss) to find out the truth. There’s also the strange fact that she cries when they have sex (is this supposed to be funny, or ironic?), which only seems to serve the line she says to him: ‘I think you’ve got serious intimacy problems’. John’s sister (Tammy Blanchard) – as if the film needed any more extraneous characters – seems to have a problem with sleeping with many anonymous strangers. McCulloch has no direction, and therefore the audience hasn’t a clue what the film is trying to say or where it wants to go, it’s just made up of a lot of people doing things with a purpose that appears to be heading further and further into an ever-deepening black hole.
Stealing Harvard outstays its welcome even with a running time of 80 minutes, and will leave most people annoyed at the time they have wasted watching it. It’s a poor film that lumbers along without much purpose, though it does have the occasional funny moment. Fans of Jason Lee and Tom Green should find some mileage here, but given the excellent list of supporting actors, it is a real shame this film is such a incoherent mess.
The film is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and anamorphic enhanced. Apart from appearing a little soft at times, this is a pleasing transfer. Colours look excellent throughout, and contrast is good – some of the dark scenes look wonderful. There is some grain noticeable on close-up shots but this doesn’t become distracting as it only happens on a few occasions. The print is in excellent condition, showing no signs of wear and tear.
The sound is English Dolby Digital 5.1, and is a very vibrant track. There is some surprising activity in the rear channels and for a dialogue driven comedy, it uses the surround to good effect. Music floods the speakers, brightening the mood and dialogue is crystal clear and nicely spaced.
Deleted Scenes - A collection of deleted material that doesn’t require your attention.
Filmographies and Trailers - Four trailers are presented for the following films: Stealing Harvard, Maid In Manhattan, The New Guy, and XXX.
It isn’t a very good film, and it isn’t a very good DVD. Picture and sound are excellent, and Tom Green fans should find something to enjoy but even they must admit the film hardly begs repeat viewings bar a couple of sporadic comedy moments here and there.