Stealing Harvard

What is most surprising about Stealing Harvard is how bland it is. This is a Tom Green movie, and that usually carries with it the (well-eserved) stigma of crude strangeness. Green (Freddy Got Fingered, Charlie's Angels) is an acquired taste, one that caters to stupidity and lameness. However, he seems to be asleep here. There are crude parts in this movie, but nothing as low as his previous efforts. Green even seems a little more normal (well, relatively) that he usually is. So this is Green-lite. He doesn't offend here, he just bores. And this pretty much sums up all of Stealing Harvard; it is one of those comedies that is not funny, but boring. Boring is probably the worst insult one can give to a comedy, aside from having Green star in it.

The premise of Stealing Harvard is that John (Jason Lee, Big Trouble, Vanilla Sky) needs to fund his niece Noreen's (Tammy Blanchard, We Were the Mulvaneys) education. She got into Harvard, and, as she keeps reminding him, when she was little, he promised to pay for her education if she got into college. She saved up a lot of money, but still needs $30,000. The rub is that John and his fiancee Elaine (Leslie Mann, Orange County, Time Code) have been saving money to buy a house and to get married. They finally have enough money to put a down payment on a house, and that sum just happens to be $30,000. John is too afraid to disappoint either of his loved ones, so he fails to tell them the situation (too dumb also applies). The only person he tells is his friend Duff (Green), whom he enlists to help him find $30,000.

Duff and John set off on a number of ill-conceived and ill-fated ideas meant to generate laughs, but they are too inane to do so. It is an extremely lazy effort by writers Martin Hynes (The Big Split) and Peter Tolan (America's Sweethearts, Bedazzled). In fact, along with director Bruce McCulloch (Dog Park, Superstar) form a triumvirate with a spate of bad films on their resumes. The combination should combine to form one big sucky uber-film, but again, Stealing Harvard is just dull. Dennis Farina (Big Trouble, Sidewalks of New York) as Elaine's father and John's boss, playing the same character he played in his last two movies. Megan Mullally (Monkeybone, Anywhere But Here) is John's trailer trash sister, presumably to add some laughs that never materialize.

But it all goes back to Green and Lee. Lee's brand of comedy and style of acting is usually a little more laid back. He can be extremely funny, depending on the material. If the material is wrong, as it is here, he looks bored. His understated manner, punctuated with shouting, just doesn't work. And pairing him with Green is silly. Duff obviously irks John, but John keeps going back to him. And each idea that Duff has to get money is just as unfunny as the one before. It's never clear why he needs to turn to illegal methods to get the money. Why not just take out a loan? Then again, that would mean something in this movie makes sense.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 23 minutes, Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, language and drug references.

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