John and his girlfriend have vowed to marry once they save $30,000 for their dream house. But the minute they achieve their financial goal, John finds out his niece has been accepted at Harvard, and he's reminded of his promise to pay for her tuition (nearly $30,000). John's friend Duff convinces him to turn to petty crime to make the payment … but Duff's hare-brained schemes spin quickly out of control.
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by Dane Youssef
Oh, I'm sorry. I fell asleep. Did something happen... ? What, no... ?
Was this supposed a comedy? Hell, I have no idea.
Hell, was this even supposed to be a damn movie?!
It must have been trying to be one.
Watching this one is like looking at a blank screen. It features talented high-caliber name actors, but they never seem to really be acting in a movie. They're just up there on the screen killing time with their monotony.
The plot is basically something for a fun Saturday-night buddy movie. But there's no energy, no spontinety, no drive... no life. "Stealing Harvard" doesn't even have a heartbeat.
The movie stars the riveting and charismatic Jason Lee ("My Name Is Earl," "Dogma," "Chasing Amy," "Kissing A Fool") as John Plummer, a home-care worker at home health-care corporation called "Homespital," not unlike the hospital founded by Patch Adams.
Lee's engaged to and just looking for a house to settle down and have a family with. His fiancee's father is also his boss.
He's a bland, ordinary "John Everyman" who engaged to a sweet, cheerful woman (somewhat deranged, of course) named Elaine (played by Leslie Mann).
His boss as "Homespital" is going to be his father in law and naturally hates John as any true father-in-law should.
"Have you slept with my daughter?" John practically swallows his whole throat.
He smiles and says with too-friendly a tone, "If you have, I'll give you immunity and that if he have slept with her, he should tell him there and now and they'll let it go."
And John himself goes blank.
Then, looking like some kind of animal caught in oncoming headlights, John wisely lies.
Mr. Warner smiles and responds: "Good! Godammit, that's good! Because if you had, John, I was gonna kick your balls up into your head and let them rattle around in your skull like dice in a Yahtzee cup!"
He and his fiancÃ¯Â¿Â½e Elaine Warner (Leslie Mann from "George of the Jungle" and "The Cable Guy") have managed to scrape up $30,000 to buy a new house. But when his scholarly niece actually manages to get into a college, an old promise that John comes back to bite him in the ass.
This is the third movie directed by former "Kid In The Hall" Bruce McCulloch ("Dog Park" and "Superstar") and it's his third misfire. His films are always dull, flat, incapable of generating any energy.
Or maybe he just refuses to let them. He always has one really flamboyant character to generate some energy into an otherwise lifeless slog. Here, it's Tom Green.
TV shock-Meister (and expired flavor-of-the-month) turned day-actor Tom Green plays his best friend Walter Duffy, a landscaper who has his own business. with an angry, obnoxious personality and a single digit IQ. He's basically just Tom Green if he went into landscaping.
His style as a landscaper is to rip up fresh green, colorful and replace them with old, dead, ugly-looking tacky ones. Well, it's a look, I guess.
At one point, his boss takes him aside and asks him the same burning question that every consumes every father to the core and to the point of hysteria:
How to get a butt-load of money really, really fast? John's comes to his longtime buddy, Walter "Duff" Duffy who suggests... a robbery.
The kind of movie you round up your weekend buddies, go to a bar and have a few and go to see during the late-showing.
The film has all the energy of a 70-year old snail on an overdose of sedatives. Jason Lee, an actor I have the utmost respect for ("Chasing Amy," "Almost Famous" and "Vanilla Sky") who combines the best of Jimmy Stewart and Adam Sandler, is so cheerful and likable, he's boring here.
Now you can say all you want that Tom Green is a bad actor. Let's face it, he is. His Golden Raspberry Award for "Worst Supporting Actor" of 2001 speaks for itself (he won many other "worsts" that year), but his performance gives the film the lion's share of what little energy it actually has. If it wasn't for Green's obnoxious Duff character, we'd all be going to sleep.
The worst part, I'm afraid, is that despite Mr. Green's inability to act, he does not give the worst performance in this movie. That comes from director McCulloch himself as an attorney near the end of the film.
Rest assured, he's not there for very long, but his acting is so bad, I was amazed at how much worse he made the film simply by entering it.
Megan Mulally appears in a supporting role as Lee's sister, who's trailer-trash through and through. She has different sex partners every night... er, hour of the week. She and John have never really been close. They have a moment together. It's more deep and interesting than any other part of the movie.
Chris Penn pops up in a brief bit as a thug who is recruited by John and Duff to pull off a robbery, which leads to a scene that could have been funny, but just plain isn't. Like the rest of movie, it's so dead and flat-lined, you wish there was some doctor to put electrical pads over the chest of the film and go "Clear!" to bring it to life.
Here's a movie that could have been just big-fun disposable Saturday Night weekend entertainment like "Meet the Parents" or "Stuck on You." But this film needed a team of script doctors straight from the ER.
The brief gags from the supporting performers aren't much either. Big names with nothing to work with. John C. McGinley (TV's "Scrubs") is particularly embarrassing as a hard-nosed detective who's hot on their trail and trying to find out who's responsible for that mini-mart stick-up and is not above breaking the law.
He plays an almost completely unfunny version of his hard-ass cop role from "Point Break." I won't even get into the scene involving Richard Jenkins as the man of one of the houses they break into looking for money, suffice to say it didn't make me laugh and it hurt to watch. So does a scene which made me feel bad that John has had sex with Elaine--she cries during cotis. Good Lord.
Boring, when not irritating. It could have been so much better. So much funnier. With a script doctor, a director with some sight and some energy... well, Que se ra....
"There is nothing sadder than wasted talent" ---Robert De Niro as Lorenzo Anello in "A Bronx Tale."
--Hoping To Steal Some of His Own Happiness Somehow and Someway, Dane Youssef