Crude Comedy Undercuts Serious Undertones
Release Date: January 11, 2002
Audience: Teenagers & young adults
Runtime: 82 minutes
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Director: Jake Kasdan
Executive Producer: Herbert W. Gains & Adam Schroeder
Writer: Mike White
Address Comments To:Sherry Lansing, Chairman
Motion Picture Group
A Paramount Communications Company
5555 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038-3197
Phone: (323) 956-5000
Colin Hanks, the son of actor Tom Hanks, stars as Shaun Brumder, a California surfing dude who suddenly gets serious about his studies after his surfer friend dies in an accident. Shaun, who wants to be a writer, is an excellent student (and president of the senior class), but the high school counselor (Lily Tomlin in a brief cameo) submits the wrong transcripts to Shaun’s first and only choice, Stanford University.
Shaun still has some opportunities to salvage the situation, but his goofy family keeps throwing a monkey wrench into his plans. Finally, he accepts a last-minute ride from his crazy, stoned brother Lance (Jack Black of SHALLOW HAL), to make a late-night pitch to Stanford’s dean of admissions, played by director Harold Ramis. Shaun’s girlfriend, Ashley, comes along for the ride.
Character fuels the story in ORANGE COUNTY. The heart of the story, Shaun’s efforts to become a serious writer, gets a lift with an excellent cameo appearance by Kevin Kline, who plays Shaun’s writing idol. The other actors do a fine job as well, especially Hanks, who plays a likeable, somewhat intelligent hero (or at least what passes for intelligence these days). Substance abuse, however, provides too much of the comical shenanigans that become obstacles in Shaun’s road to college. His brother Lance pops pills and smokes an occasional marijuana cigarette. His divorced, neurotic mother, meanwhile (played by Catherine O’Hara), has a fondness for wine. ORANGE COUNTY also includes some distasteful jokes about elderly people in wheelchairs and immoral sexual acts.
Of course, some may argue that comedy is not pretty. In the past, however, Hollywood avoided making crude jokes about sex and substance abuse in its movies. (That didn’t mean it never had any genuinely ribald moments or comical drug references in its movies, however.) Thus, in the great days of silent comedy, folks like Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and the underrated Harold Lloyd faced real social obstacles. Later, in the early sound era, comic actors like Laurel and Hardy, W. C. Fields or Abbott and Costello, though they too faced their own kinds of social obstacles, often had to overcome their own foibles, including their own stupidity, but, none of their movies (or very few of them, at any rate) turned stupidity, sexual immorality and drug abuse into comic virtues.
Despite its positive qualities, therefore, ORANGE COUNTY ultimately fails to completely satisfy as entertainment. Its serious, emotional undertones and genial characters may, however, provide enough spice to make a fair amount of money at the box office this winter.
There are some serious undertones in the new, peppy youth comedy ORANGE COUNTY that provide a positive emotional uplift to the movie’s story. It’s all of the jokes about the hero’s dysfunctional family, including his constantly stoned older brother, however, that leaves a bad taste. The heart of the story, Shaun’s efforts to become a serious writer, gets a lift with an excellent cameo appearance by Kevin Kline, but the movie turns stupidity, sexual immorality and substance abuse into comic virtues.