If you like your comedies more on the low brow kind (and who doesnít?) then Stealing Harvard could be right up your alley. Itís the kind of irrelevant comedy that someone, somewhere thought that it seemed a good idea on paper and managed to get it made. Not to say itís a bad film, just so irrelevant that it just doesnít do much.
John Plummer (Jason Lee) is a happy guy, kind of. Heís engaged to a lovely young woman, Elaine (Leslie Mann), and has a steady job and has money in the bank. There might be one or two niggles in his life, such as his over-protective, soon to be father-in-law, is his boss, and his fiancť inexplicably cries whenever they make love, but on the whole John is happy.
Everything seems peachy until his slut sister, Patty (Megan Mullally) who has spent a life time being promiscuous, announces that her daughter Noreen (Tammy Blanchard) has been accepted into college. Great news, except that John had unwittingly promised that he would pay for her to go through college, when she was a little girl. John, who had forgotten all about his promise and wanting to be true to his word, and who has $30 000 in the bank which is just about the amount that Noreen needs to go to Harvard. Unfortunately, for John, Elaine used the money to put a down payment on a house, leaving John in a very tricky situation.
Without any way of raising the cash or denying he made the promise (Patty managed to video tape the promise!) John goes to his best friend for advice Duff (Tom Green), which probably wasnít the best idea. Duff isnít the sharpest knife in the drawer and decides that the best option for John is a life of crime.
Without any real sort of planning, the in trepid duo tries to rob a house where Duff knows that the safe inside is always unlocked. One thing leads to another, but suffice to say that the two criminal masterminds are unsuccessful so resort to plan B Ė dress completely in black and rob a liquor store using toy guns sprayed black.
Again the comic larcenies of the moronic duo let them down so they decide to enlist the help of school associate (played by Chris Penn), a local hood, to rob the funds. To further complicate things, Johnís father-in-law, Mr Warren (Dennis Farina), sees John in the middle of the night and decides to investigate whatís going on, as he has never really approved to John and thinks that his daughter could do much better.
Can John get the money, whilst avoiding Mr Warren and keeping his activities secret from Elaine?
With a nice couple of minuteís narrative at the beginning and the end, the only weak part of the film is the middle (all 78 minutes worth). Itís not a complete disaster, but it just doesnít have enough substance. Laughs are few and far between, with the idea of hurling a load of gags at the audience and seeing which stick. Unfortunately not really enough hit the mark.
Jason Lee is good as John, and plays a very likeable character, who is really just trying to please everyone. Heís not as engaging as the characters that he played in Chasing Amy or Mall Rats as heís a little too much of a straight man. His counterpart, Tom Green, thankfully keeps his ridiculous performance in Freddy Got Fingered to a minimum.
Itís the supporting cast that saves the film from being a total wreak, with Dennis Farina and John C McGinley as an investigating detective being the best. McGinley, (who stars in the TV show Scrubs, as Dr Cox) and a quick appearance by Richard Jenkins, manage to show up the leads even within their confined role.
Stealing Harvard is overall a dull and somewhat lacking comedy, deciding not to follow the route of the recent trend of making a gross out film, which is one thing to be thankful of. To sum up in one quick sentence; a wasted potential.
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