The college comedy is a tried and true formula – and all-too familiar. From Back to School to Old School to the reigning granddaddy of them all, Animal House, the theme has been the same: for four years we just want to be rowdy and obnoxious – and be left alone by anyone resembling an adult. The heroes of Accepted have a slightly different dilemma; they just want to get in to college.
Bartleby Gaines (Long) is your standard anti-jock; outgoing, smooth-talking, and easy to identify with. The problem is that he has graduated high school, but there is no college in sight. In fact, every school he applied to has rejected him. His parents see this as essentially the end of his life on Earth, particularly his overbearing father. To please them, in his own messed up, Bartleby creates the South Harmon Institute of Technology (that’s right, S.H.I.T.). With the help of his best friend, Sherman (Hill), and a fellow rejected classmate, Rory (Maria Thayer), S.H.I.T. goes up virtually overnight in an abandoned insane asylum, complete with its own website. Things quickly spiral out of control, however, when that “instant acceptance” button is utilized by nearly every eccentric, college-less student in the city.
On the surface, the plot of Accepted sounds like something you’d expect to see in one of the late episodes of Saved by the Bell. In fact, Justin Long has an uncanny character resemblance to that of Zach Morris. Accepted succeeds largely because of its cast and characters, but it also keeps the laughs and sly dialogue coming at a consistent clip – unlike many comedies of late. While at times it seems like the movie desperately wants to veer into R-rated territory (it has to have the most instances of the word “shit” ever contained in one feature), the humor still manages to work because of never-ending energy and a good grasp of how the average college student approaches school, at least socially.
Justin Long proves early on that he is up to the challenge of carrying a film. He has made quite a name for himself in the recent lot of Mac commercials, and here he maxes out the charm meter. This is essential when you need a pathologically lying, yet kind-hearted, lead character. The supporting cast is nonetheless entertaining, particularly Jonah Hill as Sherman. His deadpan delivery is spot on and his dialogue with Bartleby, as he constantly has to pull him back to reality, is repeatedly amusing. Lewis Black does what he does best: freaking out and giving no-nonsense lectures that make an amazing amount of sense.
Accepted may seem tired and monotonous topically, but it is also proof positive that a solid leading comic performance can take an otherwise ho-hum premise and cruise it to victory. It’s a good primer for freshman college students headed to campus in the coming weeks – a real campus, that is, so you parents out there better check that acceptance letter again.
Studio: Universal Pictures
Length: 90 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for language, sexual material and drug content.
Theatrical Release: August 18, 2006
Directed by: Steve Pink
Written by: Adam Cooper & Bill Collage & Mark Perez.
Cast: Justin Long, Adam Herschman, Jonah Hill, Blake Lively, Mark Derwin, Columbus Short