Orange County

Directed by Jake Kasdan
Starring: Colin Hanks, Schuyler Fisk, Catherine O'Hara, Jack Black, John Lithgow.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for drug content, language and sexuality.

Review by Evelyn Gildrie-Voyles <>
February 13, 2002

If you loved the television and movie theatre previews for Orange County and can't wait to see Jack Black stick twizzlers up his nose or find out what other funny things he says on the videotape to Stanford, don't bother seeing this movie. There is no tape to Stanford, no food fun with Jack Black, and very little Jack Black at all. He is strictly a secondary character. The movie focuses almost fully on Colin Hanks' character. But Hanks is perfectly able to carry a film and there is a lot of soul searching, drug humor, and dysfunctional family scenes, so the movie is not a complete loss. It just isn't the wacky gross out comedy that the commercials are trying to pretend it is.

It actually is a "boy with a dream" movie. It's closer to October Sky without the pretension than it is to American Pie with citrus. The boy's dream is to be a writer, not a rocket scientist, so this is a light comedy instead of a sappy feel-good flick. Shaun Brumder (Colin Hanks) becomes obsessed with studying creative writing at Stanford after reading a professor's novel during a personal crisis. Brumder's family is highly dysfunctional; his friends are all stoners and his school is full of stupid people, including the faculty. He expects Stanford to be a haven from all this. He is rejected by the college due to confusion over his transcript, so he, his perfect girlfriend (Schuyler Fisk), and his less than perfect brother (Jack Black) drive to Stanford to set the record straight.

The movie does not soar or crash; it just coasts along as an okay film. The costumes are fine, the dialogue is fine, the direction is fine, and the acting is fine. The only exceptional thing about the movie is the casting. Colin Hanks and Schuyler Fisk are capable, likeable actors who actually look like human beings instead of drop dead gorgeous twentysomethings pretending to be human beings. Their presence makes the film seem plausible, sweet and less contrived, despite the fact that it is very contrived. Jack Black, Catherine O'Hara, and John Lithgow keep their drugged deadbeat, drunk mother, and corporate daddy from becoming cartoonish. There are a large number of cameos and they are all amusing. Jane Adams is a quirky and freaky actress who provides an amusing counterpoint to Jack Black in a few funny scenes.

Overall the movie is likeable, but nothing to rush to the theatres to see. The message of Orange County is to not seek for great things far away, but to take your time and to let things come to you. This is perfect advice for anyone wanting to see the movie; just sit back and wait for it to come out on video or cable.

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Orange County (2002)

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