Retro Review: Stealing Harvard

Written: September 15, 2002

Hollywood pairs up two jokesters in hopes of landing a hit comedy.

The problem is someone forgot to tell Jason Lee that he is the straight man in the film.

“Stealing Harvard” is a goofball comedy about a guy named John Plummer (Jason Lee of “Chasing Amy”) who has to live up to a promise he made to his college-bound niece, Noreen (Tammy Blanchard). John promised Noreen that he would pay for her college education.

It was a blind promise but John’s trailer-park sister, Patty (Megan Mullally of TV’s “Will & Grace”), happens to catch it on videotape and confronts him with it. Now John has to come up with $30,000 extra dollars for Noreen.

John looks to his “dumb-as-a-post” friend, Duff (Tom Green of “Road Trip”) for help. John must also keep it all a secret from his fiancée (Leslie Mann of “George of the Jungle”) and her father (Dennis Farina of “Get Shorty”).

“Stealing Harvard” is dumb, rudimentary and painful to sit through. The film is one of those films that make you wonder how it ever got made. There are a lot of subplots which sort of connect to the main premise but with half of them you really have to stretch it. The whole mourning judge (Richard Jenkins of TV’s “Six Feet Under”) was way overused and the joke was so painful. Why didn’t this film take any risks with typical comedy clichés?

Jason Lee has made a career over being a wise-cracking underachiever who always gets the best lines. Now it seems that Lee is playing second fiddle to Green.

For one thing Jason Lee should never be the straight guy. Teamed up with Green, Lee became a liquidized version of a John Cusack-esque character from those 80’s comedies. Also, why is it always law for a comedy to have the straight man have the fiancée?

I heard one guy when I left the theatre say that this movie was “a waste of film”. I have to agree but it is still far better than Green’s last film “Freddy Got Fingered”. Harvard tries even if it fails miserably.

I liked Dennis Farina and Leslie Mann but the film hardly even explores these characters. They are typical “stepford” comedy clichés. Poor Farina, that man can be so funny when given the right material.

I really am a big fan of Jason Lee but I am starting to see that he is only as funny as the material he is given.

(1.5 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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