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How could Green and Lee make something as lame as this?
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 06/27/2004
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I did like the "Branch Rickey" joke, but I bet that gag was over the head of a lot of people who checked out "Stealing Harvard." Besides, that joke was in the trailer as were most of what ends up being the funny parts from this 2002 comedy. Please, raise your hand if you are sick and tired of trailers usually being better than the movies they trick you into going to see. If this movie did not have a trailer to give away the good parts I could have given it another star. The story that Peter Tolan and Martin Hynes come up with provides a good enough framework for a comedy. John Plummer (Jason Lee) and his fiance, Elaine Warner (Leslie Mann) have finally saved $30,000, which is enough for them to buy a home and get married. But John's neice Noreen (Tammy Blanchard) has just achieved her dream of being accepted at Harvard and she and her mother, Patty (Megan Mullally) have a videotape from many years earlier when Uncle John promised to pay for Noreen's college education. Noreen only needs $29 thousand and change in eleven days. John cannot just give Noreen the $30,000 that is earmarked for the new house and the only reasonable alternative, as suggested by his best friend "Duff" (Tom Green), is to steal the money. This is easier said then done, an idea that could be handled creatively but is not in this film. Instead we have something on the level of "Raising Arizona" if written by high school students who only remember the worst episodes of "Saturday Night Live." This movie is just not funny and most of the cast is clearly trying too hard. A film in which Tom Green and Jason Lee are both too sedate is not a good sign. Richard Jenkins plays the only character who seems comfortable with their role, but I do want to mention that in the last act of the film Leslie Mann's Elaine suddenly turns out to be a bit more than a woman who tends to cry during sex, which was a pleasing surprise.The plot has its standard complications. Elaine is the boss's daughter and daddy (Dennis Farina) makes a point of asking each day if John is sleeping with his little girl and is looking for someway to break up the couple, aided in his effort by Rex the Dog (Zeus). Meanwhile, John and Duff have to contend with both Detective Charles (John C. McGinley) and local thug David Loach (Chirs Penn) as they try to figure out a way of "Stealing Harvard." But you keep coming back to the idea that certainly Green and Lee could have come up with better ad libs that what ends up in this lame little comedy.The working titles for this film included "The Promise," "You Promised," "Say Uncle," "Uncle," and "Stealing Standford." If you check out the deleted scenes there is a point where Noreen wants to go to "Northern," so that last one makes me wonder how hard it would have to do regional versions of this film: Harvard for the East and Stanford for the West, then something like Notre Dame or Illinois for the Midwest and Duke or Miami for the South. But then why stop there? They could change one visual, dub a handful of scenes, and every major college in the country could be the target school for this movie, everything from "Stealing Auburn" to "Stealing Wyoming." That would be one one to generate interest in this movie and get poeple to see it. Then again, it might have been cheaper just to actually make it a funny movie."