COLLEGE (D: Deb Hagan, 94 min) Opens Friday (August 29). Rating: NNN
College is a far better-made movie than most frat house comedies. But, then, it's only pretending to be a comedy. Underneath the stereotyped characters and clichéd hijinks is a savage attack on the party-party ethic that fuels the genre and the fools who buy into it - the presumed audience for this movie.
Kevin, Carter and Morris are three high school seniors who head off for a weekend to check out the college of their choice. Kevin is the responsible straight arrow who wants to prove he's a fun guy, Carter's the aggressive, supposedly funny fat guy (think John Belushi clone), and Morris is the nervous brain. They're convinced they're in for a wild weekend of sex and beer. Instead they get a steadily mounting course of humiliation at the hands of the kind of frat boys who were the heroes in Animal House.
First-time director Deb Hagan knows how to handle crowd scenes and make her parties look fun. She's good with atmosphere, editing rhythm and dialogue scenes. This is a director to watch.
She also gets decent performances from her cast, especially Andrew Caldwell as fat-boy Carter, who lets us see first the mean-spirited bully, then the more thoughtful kid under the party animal. Drake Bell is adequate as serious-guy Kevin, likewise American Idol alumnus Kevin Covais as Morris the nerd.