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Monday, September 25, 2006

Accepted certainly is

By MIKE McILVAIN

“Accepted” leaves a ringing effect long after the last of many laughs and the unusual applause and cheers die from the last local theater showing.
Made with few familiar faces to moviegoers, “Accepted” doesn’t seem like an academic version to 1981’s “Stripes” with Bill Murray, Harold Ramis and John Candy until thinking is clearer after the stimulation from this one finally fades. Anthony Heald is the most familiar face and he’s no household name, either, but works well in the mix as the middle aged, stuffy, snidely and nasty Dean Van Horne at nearby Harmon College.
Heald is a good, but still somehow an almost loveable villain who could have fit in “Stripes” or “Animal House” roles, too.
“Rejection. That's what makes a college great. The exclusivity of any university is judged primarily by the amount of students it rejects,” Heald as Van Horne says, anchoring his character as the traditional, modernday college administrator.
Bartleby Gaines, played by Justin Long, is rejected by all previous colleges he applies to, so in desperation he augments smarter buddy Sherman Shrader’s letter of acceptance to have him accepted at the South Harmon Institute of Technology. South Harmon doesn’t really exist, however, so the school’s founding friends, mostly other rejects, spend the summer making an abandoned psychiatric hospital look like a college.
“Let's start this fake college. Then, we'll go start a meth lab somewhere. It's a gateway crime. That's how these things start,” Shrader says, mocking Bartleby’s request to make South Harmon somewhat of a reality.
Shrader, played by Jonah Hill -- helps bring in his Uncle Ben, played by Lewis Black, whose face is fairly familiar to moviegoers -- to front as a school official. Crusty old Uncle Ben proves to have the gift of gab and punch line strength to pull it off.
The lovely Blake Lively is Bartleby’s heart throb and eventual girlfriend, edging toward the relationship in a move away from Harmon College and her traditional, athletic-looking fraternity officer hunkish boyfriend. Shrader eventually leaves Harmon, too, once his involvement in South Harmon is too deep and his disdain for abusive fraternity hazing.
Harmon and South Harmon meet in an Ohio college board meeting after the evil Dean Van Horne has exposed the upstart institution, seeking its land for expansion and a grand entranceway. This is the battle of the old-style traditional institution against new innovative student-led and designed courses. Bartleby’s key defense speech questions the gray-headed board’s real intentions and desires back when they entered college.
The speech helps hand South Harmon a one-year accreditation, resulting in pandemonium and triumph for the new school over the old. Some scriptwriting sincerity and forethought raises above the laughs when the board president tells Bartleby not to judge too quickly as he had more artistic intentions when younger.
“It’s never too late,” Gaines says in brief heartfelt reply before joining the celebration.
Adam Cooper, Bill Collage and Mark Perez have worked together before on a few other lesser movies and wrote the screenplay. Perez wrote the initial story intended for movie adaptation.
“Accepted” rates a solid 9 ½ habaneros out of 10 and 10s just aren’t handed out. This one was too short. Too many other movies are too long.
Anyone who ever took a college course, or decided against it, should see this one. Anyone involved in higher education and concerned about that inner battle of the traditional college education against new ideas and formats could find themselves seeing it several times.

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