Starring: Justin Long, Jonah Hill, Adam Herschman, Blake Lively, Columbus Short, Maria Thayer, Lewis Black
Director: Steve Pink
Going to see a film like “Accepted” is a lot like sticking your head in the microwave. You don’t know what to expect. Of course, the college comedy isn’t exactly a new venture. It’s been done countless times before, and in many cases, much better than director Steven Pink’s sophomoric debut. Due to a disappointing summer movie season filled with overbloated pirate epics and talking CGI animals, however, I was willing to forgo any obvious similarities to films like “Animal House” and “PCU” and give it a fair shot. Surprisingly enough, the film is actually one of the funniest comedies of the year, thanks in part to a near-perfect performance by star Justin Long and a hearty helping of Skepticism 101 by “The Daily Show” contributor Lewis Black.
Apple Mac poster boy Long plays Bartleby Gaines, a recent high school graduate who’s found himself in an unusual situation: despite applying to several universities, he hasn’t been accepted to a single one. Apparently, community college doesn’t exist in the small town of Harmon, OH where the Gaines family resides. Feeling the heat of his parent’s disappointment when they discover that their only son won’t be attending college, Bartleby does what any other desperate teenager would do: he makes one up. With the help of his friends Sherman, Hands and Rory (Jonah Hill, Columbus Short and Maria Thayer, respectively), Bartleby legitimizes his acceptance by designing a website for the school (the South Harmon Institute of Technology, or S.H.I.T.) and leasing an old psych ward that he dresses up to resemble a college campus.
The hoax works, a little too well, of course, and when a group of new students show up at the front doors on the first day of “orientation” (with tuition checks in hand), Bartleby discovers that the website’s “Acceptance is Just One Click Away” link was programmed to actually work. Hiring Sherman’s uncle (Black) – a former college professor – to play the part of Dean and creating a do-it-yourself curriculum where the student teaches himself, Bartleby finally realizes the amazing possibilities of his fake college just as the Dean of the real Harmon College (Anthony Heald) threatens to close it down.
“Accepted” doesn’t necessarily offer anything we haven’t seen before, but the jokes that are featured are ones that fans of the genre won’t mind seeing done again. The cast of oddball characters is prominently featured (including a guy with a serious case of ADD, and another who majors in blowing things up with his mind), while the feel-good ending arrives just in time before the curtains close. Long does a commendable job as the film’s klutzy lead (tripping over couches and running into doors) and Black turns in an entertaining supporting performance as a version of himself, but its relative newcomer Hill that proves to be the film's funniest character, stealing nearly every scene with an endless barrage of witty one-liners, brazen gags and embarrassing outfits.
Unfortunately, not too many people will get a chance to see “Accepted” (it opens the same weekend as the summer’s most anticipated film, “Snakes on a Plane," and is widely considered the Worst Film of the Year by many people who haven't even seen it ), but you definitely should if given the chance. Pink has proven himself capable of comedy before, with writing credits that include “High Fidelity” and “Grosse Point Blank” – which is actually quite ideal considering Long isn’t far from becoming this generation’s John Cusack – and it’s obvious that he hasn’t lost his touch. It’s his first gig as a director, though, and he's in desperate need of a little acceptance. How about helping the guy out?
Deleted scenes and outtakes highlight this single-disc release of the late-summer comedy, but the rest of the special features are pretty lame. A short making-of featurette (“Reject Rejection”) and a video diary with Adam Herschman (“Adam’s Accepted Chronicles”) are among the duds on the DVD, while the feature commentary with director Steve Pink and stars Justin Long, Lewis Black, Jonah Hill and Herschman is way too crowded with eccentric personalities to feign any sort of coherent entertainment.