Retro Review: Orange County

It’s a Sure Thing for a whole new generation.

Orange County stars Colin Hanks (Tom’s son) as Shaun Brumder, a struggling teen-surfer who has a revelation when he finds a book in the sand. The book leads the teen to examine his outlook on life and eventually apply to Stanford University. Stanford becomes Shaun’s soul reason for living and a crisis mounts when his daft guidance counselor (Lily Tomlin) sends the wrong transcript to the university. It becomes a quest to get Shaun into Stanford. Shaun enlists the help his girlfriend (Schuyler Fisk) and his drugged-out brother (Jack Black) to help him get in. But it seems that maybe his fate could be sealed when his goofy family keeps mucking it up.

Director Jake Kasdan’s Orange County is finally a teen comedy that doesn’t fall into the gross-out genre. It’s actually a breath of fresh-air after last year’s onslaught of gross-out comedies. This film reminded me a lot of the 80’s comedies starring John Cusack.

In those films, Cusack would always talk to the camera and help the audience get into his mind. This is very evident in the case of Shaun Brumder. I often compared this film to the classic Rob Reiner/John Cusack movie A Sure Thing with all the delightful and often hilarious angst throughout. I do really miss the 80’s comedies. Whatever happened to John Hughes, anyhow? I mean he was the comedic jedi back then.

Director Kasdan is emerging as a comedic force of his own as he directed the critically and little seen television series Freaks & Geeks and Grosse Pointe. The film’s writer Michael White also collaborated with Kasdan on Freaks and Geeks.

I loved Kasdan’s work with Darren Star on the WB TV series Grosse Pointe because it was such an original concept for a sitcom. It could have been a success if maybe it was run by HBO or a network that would have supported it.

The first obviously amazing thing about Orange County is that the film’s cast is physically the next generation of already established Hollywood alumni.

The film’s director Jake Kasdan is son of veteran film director Lawrence Kasdan, Schuyler Fisk is the daughter of veteran film actress Sissy Spacek and we already know about the film’s star Colin Hanks. These second generation stars can also act and pour their hearts into this project. I really liked all of their contributions.

The second amazing thing is how this comedy uses its supporting cast. There is Catherine O’Hara as the delightfully depressed and drunk mother, John Lithgow as the father who just went through his midlife crisis and the always unpredictable Jack Black, who seems to have become the Phillip Seymour Hoffman of comedies. The film is also littered with cameos and each is precious. I loved seeing all these famous people pop-up everywhere.

Orange County is definitely a hilarious gut-wrencher that surprised me.

(3.5 out of 5)

So Says that Soothsayer.

Written: February 18, 2002

3 thoughts on “Retro Review: Orange County

  1. “Orange County” is one of my favorite teen comedies purely because of the cast. Colin Hanks is an immensely likable actor, as is Schuyler Fisk (who proved in “I’m Reed Fish” that she’s a killer singer/songwriter, too). Catherine O’Hara and John Lithgow are what lured me to the theater, and they did not disappoint me.

    Best scene: The college interview with Lance’s urine going all over the couch and Shaun’s mom slurring every word. Brilliant comedy.

  2. Orange County is one of those movies where you take it for what it is. When I look back at my middle school days, this movie pops right out. When I saw it way back in 2002 , I thought it was a funniest thing i ever seen (at the age of 13). Obviously my taste has matured over time, but now when I watch it whenever it’s on Comedy Central I’ll admit I chuckle still at some parts, but mostly when I watch it it brings me back my middle school memories mostly.

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