Great cinema makes us ask big questions. In the case of College, we're made to ask the biggest of all: What did we do to deserve this?
We lie, we betray, we hurt those around us out of weakness and from malice, but there's redemption, too. To pay money to watch a movie that makes us sick to the soul -- what collective crime have we committed? Are we all so low? Why put us on an Earth whose baseness we can't escape, then strike us down with a theatrical thunderbolt when we inevitably falter?
Is there salvation? What is its form -- cloistering ourselves inside the theater walls, watching naught but The Godfather and Apocalypse Now and It's a Wonderful Life until our hearts are purged? Or can we find cleansing only in suffering? Is College meant to show us true horror, to remind us of our monstrous roots? Is there meaning behind this pain? Or is it, like we fear before we dream, nothing but a joke, a hoax, a string of senseless and cruel humiliations until, at last, THE END?
Displaying a contempt for humanity I haven't witnessed since the day its producers weren't aborted, College follows three high schoolers -- Drake Bell (nonthreatening, "likable"), Andrew Caldwell (fat, with a fatter mouth) and Kevin Covais (nerdy milquetoast) -- on their fall visit to a local college.
They want what every young man wants: sex, beer, adventure. They get what any college experience is a pale shadow without: psychotic frat boys, body shots from hairy asses, pig-shit-related vengeance. Kids: it's not too late to drop out.
Calling it an awful Superbad doesn't begin to plumb the depths. Calling its acting hammy insults swine. Calling its writing and direction hellish -- script perpetrated by Dan Callahan and Adam Ellison, Deb Hagen as head clown directing this shameful circus -- belittles the Devil.
Urgh. Some corpses are too rotten to dissect.
I saw it on a Sunday matinee: me, two teenage boys with their dad, an elderly couple tucked in the back corner. When the credits rolled, releasing us, the older couple sat in stony silence, no doubt wondering whether Oregon's euthanasia clinics operate on the Sabbath. The teens bolted, deciding out loud it was the worst movie they'd seen. In a way, it's a small kindness they saw it so young -- their lives, from here, can only look brighter.
Cutout characters. A plot of such creative poverty it died with the needle in its arm. Unredeemed wish-fulfillment sleaze with none of the thrill of teen sex comedies or the honesty of porn. The vulgar slang, already so out of date it's hard to even roll your eyes, which Callahan and Ellison sling around and then helpfully define for us with the "I'm doing something I'm not supposed to" sneer of that 11-year-old boy everyone else hates and is right to hate. Recounting it makes me sound Puritan, but somewhere, Zombie de Sade plans his revenge against this assault on obscenity.
As a theological trap, it's a Catch-22: a movie so bad it makes you want to butcher its creators, then kills you with boredom and tortures you in the afterlife for those murderous thoughts it made you think. If the Easter Bunny watched this, he would crack all his eggs and retire to the Himalayas.
This pile is so bad it doesn't even have the balls to go all the way with its Terrible Movie Pride Parade. Instead, mindlessly copying from other teen comedies like the world's saddest chimp, College goes for a "Things fall apart, friends fight, friends make up, guys win girls, hooray for everything" last act so cynically executed all you can do is laugh, go home, then build a raft out of Kleenex boxes and forsaken hopes and wait for your river of tears to sweep you out to sea.
I'd call for the heads of Callahan, Ellison, and Hagen to be mounted high on Hollywood's gate, but living with themselves is a punishment second only to watching their movie.