As a freshman film student at NYU, Clark Kellogg is hustled as soon as he arrives in the Big Apple. With no money to buy books, he turns to his film professor, but gets an unsympathetic ear. Then, Clark runs into his victimizer, who puts Clark in touch with Carmine Sabatini (Marlon Brando), a mafia kingpin and fatherly figure who befriends the waif college student.
Clark thinks Carmine bears an uncanny resemblance to you-know-who, and, in case you don’t, the answer is supplied in Clark’s film class as he watches clips from THE GODFATHER II. At any rate, because he needs the money, Clark agrees to deliver a package for Carmine, a kimono dragon lizard, which Clark learns is on the endangered species list.
Carmine also happens to have an eligible daughter, Tina, whom, on their next encounter, Carmine suggests that Clark marry. Clark is absolutely confounded as to why all these people, who are perfect strangers, are extending to him the “handshake of friendship” and the “kiss of kisses.”
Clark gets his answer when two Justice Department officials show up and inform him that Carmine has been sponsoring an elite dinner group that pays $200,000-a-plate and up for an entree off an endangered-species menu. Wanting to know where the next meal will be served, they approach Clark for help.
However, the agents turn out to be crooked and, under the pretense of enforcing Fish & Wildlife regulations, are really after the dinner proceeds. Carmine knows this and arranges for FBI agents to arrest the agents while he serves smoked turkey to his unsuspecting dinner guests. Thus, the whole operation is a scam. The lizard is spared, (as presumably all the endangered critters were), and Carmine uses the money to build a habitat for animals that are in danger of extinction.
Considering its political ambitions to make a statement about environmentalism and saving the earth’s endangered species, the film is not that successful in stirring emotions, or motivating one to action. The comedy even when it tries to get up falls flat, consisting primarily of scenes like Clark and a fellow student strapping a seat belt onto the kimono lizard when they have to transport it to New Jersey; or, said giant lizard getting loose in a mall, creating panic while a stuffy voice over the P.A. system says, “Would the owner of the reptile please come to the information booth.” Lastly, there’s the kind of comedy that has Tina boasting to Clark that her daddy’s “Mona Lisa” is the real “Mona Lisa”, or announcing to Clark’s film professor: “Daddy thinks Clark is an A student.”
Before starting his venture in New York City, Clark, in fact, would have done well to have heeded Matthew 10:16. “Therefore be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves.” Instead he utters profanity and all too willingly goes along with a scheme he knows isn’t right. Perhaps, college freshmen will show better judgment than this ill-fated fellow, by skipping THE FRESHMAN.
Few profanities and half-dozen obscenities; as well as robbery and deception