When the cast and director of a film gas away about how the script was “unfunny” and “troubled”, rather than opting for the junket-standard act of praising everyone and everything from the scriptwriter to the chef’s cat, it says two things. One: they’re honest. Two: their movie’s in danger of being a stinker. Unless Francis Ford Coppola’s involved, of course...
Yet Apocalypse Now this ain’t, and Accepted falls well short of a passing grade. It’s not the fault of the premise, which is a funny one – quick-witted slacker starts a fake college to fool his folks, with the simple ruse spiralling into a whole new way of looking at education – but the finished product never quite lives up to the dream. Long is the stand-out who carries the more sickly sweet moments with easy charm – even if he does look a little uncomfortable as the vaguely goofy, straight-arrow lead next to the having-a-giggle Jonah Hill (as tubby best friend Sherman) and Adam Herschman’s slob-out stoner.
Given the college deadbeats theme, the big, fat, Belushi-shaped elephant in the room is National Lampoon’s Animal House. Well, that and the more recent likes of American Pie. And while Accepted seems happy to court these comparisons, it’s also bound to be judged against these films and, unsurprisingly, comes up short.
Predictably, it’s a backwards step, with the cast’s best efforts let down by the film’s adherence to genre clichés. The thicko jock boyfriend is straight from Casting Central, as is his sexy girlfriend who falls for our hero. And when Bartleby is forced to give a speech defending his actions, you’ll find yourself mouthing what he’s about to say before he says it.
Still, at least Accepted is one new comedy that doesn’t rabidly pursue the cheap gross-out angle favoured by so many of its pukey peers. It’s a credit to the actors that the film scores as many laughs as it does, but it really needed more freedom of thought to be genuinely fun.