"Good Intentions Turn Criminal"
In STEALING HARVARD, a middle-class man turns to a life of crime in order to finance his niece’s first year at Harvard University. With a lackluster story and acting as well as fatalistic, immoral messages, MOVIEGUIDE® teenagers will be better served elsewhere this month.
STEALING HARVARD begins with John Plummer (played by Jason Lee) pontificating about whether or not fate controlled the world. His parents had died when he was a teenager, and now he wonders if everything in life has been pre-packaged and served to him by a higher power.
Twenty-something John and his almost live-in girlfriend/fiancé, Elaine (played by Leslie Mann), have finally raised the $30,000 they’d been saving for years. It’s finally time to buy a house. The day after John makes celebratory love to Elaine, he boldly lies to her father, his boss, Mr. Warner (Dennis Farina), who is questioning him.
He then visits his sister, Patty (Megan Mullally), who is “trailer trash,” as John puts it, and he finds out that his niece, Noreen, has somehow been accepted into Harvard University. Patty and Noreen play John an old videotape that shows John promising little Noreen that if she ever got into college, he would pay her way. Noreen thanks John for his promise that she never forgot and informs him that she only needs $30,000 more to make it all work.
John must now decide whether or not to tell Elaine that their precious down-payment money might need to go to Harvard. The alternative is to get advice and help from his old friend, Duff (played by Tom Greene), and try to make both plans happen. He chooses the latter route and that’s when life really gets interesting. Duff’s ideas involve stealing, lying, cheating, betrayal, gambling, and all sorts of other illegal activities, including involvement with a judge with homosexual-looking behavior. Hey! It’s for a college kid, right?
After several adventures, crazy mishaps and a weird detective intent on hunting him down, John’s quest for the dollars gets intense. At the end, he finally shares his philosophy on life, which is: “If you show up, do your best and occasionally spoon with a judge, you don’t have to believe in fate. It will believe in you.” Ah, the thought for the week . . .
STEALING HARVARD is a lackluster story with lackluster acting. Though the characters even talk about the “slippery slope” of lying and compromising, they continue to use these tools throughout the story, giving morally conscientious viewers a very unsettling feeling after awhile.
This movie has a dark, fatalistic overtone, despite its few laughs, and the character arcs are not complete enough to be satisfying. Some of the comedy is poorly timed, and almost all of the gags have been over-used in the past. The dialogue also is weak, evidenced by Tom Greene’s character continually asking, “Do you know what your problem is?”
STEALING HARVARD promotes pre-marital sex, disrespect for authority (as seen in the movie’s outrageous deceptions toward Elaine’s father), lying, stealing, and cheating to reach a goal. These offenses are never fully corrected, nor are their negative fruits portrayed.
This kind of movie will attract many teenagers, but it will lead them to immoral messages. A more uplifting choice for MOVIEGUIDE® teenagers this month might be LITTLE SECRETS, TUCK EVERLASTING, THE FOUR FEATHERS, or SIMONE.
(PaPaPa, Ro, PCPC, ACapACap, Ho, LLL, VV, SS, N, A, D, M) Relativistic, fatalistic pagan worldview with end justifying means and deceit is protagonist’s lifestyle with emotion-based, impulsive, momentary decision-making and politically correct, anti-capitalist, politics of envy theme with the rich and the insurance companies deserving to be robbed; strong language with at least seven profanities and 21 obscenities, many extreme; moderate violence with punch-outs, crowbar clobberings, etc.; numerous allusions to and veiled depictions of pre-marital sex, plus depictions of homosexual and cross-dressing behavior, though man denies he is homosexual; veiled nudity and scantily-clad girl seduces guy; numerous depictions of alcohol; smoking; and, lying, stealing, cheating, betrayal, dishonoring of parents, compromise, name-calling, and scatological humor.
In STEALING HARVARD, John and his fiancée, Elaine, have finally raised the $30,000 they’d been saving for a down payment on a house. He then finds out that his niece, Noreen, has somehow been accepted into Harvard University and is holding him to an old promise to pay for her education. Surprise! She only needs $30,000 to make it all work. John must now decide whether or not to tell Elaine that their precious down-payment money might need to go to Harvard. The alternative is to get help from his old friend, Duff, and try to make both plans happen. He chooses the latter route and that’s when life really gets interesting. Duff’s ideas involve stealing, lying, cheating, betrayal, gambling, and all sorts of other illegal activities. Hey! It’s for a college kid, right?
STEALING HARVARD is a lackluster story with lackluster acting. The movie has a dark, fatalistic overtone, despite a few laughs, and the comedy and dialogue are weak. This kind of movie will attract many teenagers, but it will lead them to immoral messages of compromise and deceit. Better teen choices this month are LITTLE SECRETS, TUCK EVERLASTING and SIMONE