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Stealing Harvard

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2002 1 Jan
Stealing Harvard

from Film Forum, 09/19/02

Crass comedian Tom Green returns to the screen in another lowbrow comedy this week. Fortunately for audiences, Stealing Harvard is not the universally condemned disaster that Green delivered last time (Freddy Got Fingered). Perhaps that is because he did not direct this picture—Bruce McColloch did. And the headlining star is the always-amusing Jason Lee (Vanilla Sky, Almost Famous, Mumford).

Lee plays John, a sensible guy who just wants to marry his longtime girlfriend. But when he is suddenly asked to make good on a foolish promise—to pay his niece's tuition if she got into Harvard—his challenged finances put his marital plans in jeopardy. So he calls on his best friend Duff (Green), an empty-headed troublemaker, to help him make a small fortune in two weeks. Duff's solution: a short-lived crime spree.

According to almost every critic who bothered to review the film, the director and the star are unable to save the film from the unpleasant screen presence of Tom Green. It's no Freddie Got Fingered, but it's not worth eight bucks either.

Gerri Pare (Catholic News) says, "The film's dopey characters and absurd situations are only a tad amusing." Preview's critic writes, "Discerning moviegoers will agree Stealing Harvard should be rated R and spurned by moviegoers."

Phil Boatwright (Movie Reporter) registers complaints as well: "The film's humor, while meant to be wacky, is just outrageous or downright bizarre. And what's the message — it's okay to steal, so long as it's to help a family member go to college?"

Bob Smithouser (Focus on the Family) is equally displeased. "Some movies seem carefully crafted to meet the needs of a specific audience. In the case of Stealing Harvard, it's apparently to provide party-hearty frat houses with a video rental suitable for a Friday-night kegger."

Mainstream critics lined up to dismiss the film. Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) only laughed once: "The laugh in Stealing Harvard comes early, when we see the name of the company where the hero works. It's a home health-care corporation named Homespital. That made me laugh. It made me smile again when the name turned up later. And on the laugh meter, that's about it. This is as lax and limp a comedy as I've seen in a while, a meander through worn-out material."