A scene from 'Stealing Harvard'
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1/2* stars
83 minutes | Rated: PG-13
Opened: Friday, September 13, 2002
Directed by Bruce McCulloch

Starring Jason Lee, Tom Green, Leslie Mann, Megan Mullally, Dennis Farina, Richard Jenkins, John C. McGinley, Chris Penn, Seymour Cassel

This film is on the Worst of 2002 list.

Read our interview with Dennis Farina Read out April 2002 interview with Dennis Farina


At best, a complete waste of your rental dollar.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 02.18.2003


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Lee turns criminal to pay for his niece's college tuition in laughless, lowbrow comedy

By Rob Blackwelder

From its cursory, I- don't- know- how- to- start- my- movie opening voice over ("...my life was totally different just a couple weeks ago...") to its feeble, listless post-credits blooper reel, there isn't a laugh to be had in "Stealing Harvard."

Another boorish movie from the I- heard- a- joke- at- a- frat- party school of screenwriting, it's about a hapless chump (Jason Lee) whose long-forgotten promise to pay for his niece's college comes back to bite him in the wallet when she's accepted to Harvard. With his life's savings ($30,000) already in escrow toward a house for a fiancée who makes him miserable (chump!), Lee turns to his dumbest, most loutish (and apparently only) friend for ideas and ends up bungling through a series of failed criminal enterprises.

The caliber of comedy that results can be summed up by noting that this friend -- a beer-swilling dolt who lives in his mother's garage -- is played by the talentless, intentionally imbecilic gross-out comic Tom Green ("Freddy Got Fingered"), who seems to be improvising his way through the movie while director Bruce McCullouch ("Dog Park," "Superstar") obediently follows with a camera. A convenience store robbery ends with a teenage clerk firing a shotgun at them. A break-in at a mansion ends with Lee in drag, spooning in bed with the man of the house, a gun-toting lonely widower. A deal with a loan shark finds him the unwitting driver of a bank robbery getaway car.

Throughout these slapstick misadventures, the unsympathetically thick-witted Lee tells lies upon lies to his fiancée (squeaky-voiced Lesley Mann, "George of the Jungle") and her over-protective, cartoonishly disapproving father (Dennis Farina in a paycheck performance), whom Lee decides to rob in one last, desperate move that passes for the picture's climax.

It's clear from the inconstancy of the actors, who seem bored in some scenes and hyper-caffeinated in others, that McCullouch -- the most ham-fisted member of the 1990s TV comedy troop "The Kids in the Hall" -- wouldn't know a measured performance if it bit him on the nose. (His cameo as Lee's lawyer stands out to the point of distraction as the worst acting in the movie.)

It's even more apparent from the out-of-focus opening shot, the elementary scene staging and the laughably obvious soundstage sets that he doesn't know much about filmmaking either.

I've seen worse movies this year (six of them, to be exact), but "Stealing Harvard" is the only one that actively squanders what little it has going for it -- namely the proven comedy talents Lee and Farina, not to mention Megan Mullally ("Will & Grace") and John C. McGinley ("Scrubs"), wasted in roles as Lee's "sexually indiscriminate trailer trash" sister and a vein-popping cop obsessed with linking Lee and Green to their attempted crimes.


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