How I Got Into College review by Mike Long

So, here's the deal; In the late 1980s, you direct three feature films which take a skewed and hilarious look at teenage angst, making you a sort of anti-John Hughes. Then suddenly, you walk away from this to pursue work in television. Sound far-fetched? Well, that's what happened with Savage Steve Holland, the man behind the classic John Cusack vehicle Better Off Dead and its pseudo-sequel One Crazy Summer (a film which works despite the presence of Demi Moore). However, Holland's last foray into cinema, How I Got Into College, isn't as well known as his first two films, but it still shows while Savage Steve is sorely missed.

Apparently John Cusack was unavailable for this film, as Corey Parker stars in How I Got Into College as Marlon Browne, a lovable high-school slacker who has a long-standing crush on fellow student Jessica Kailo. As Marlon, a mid-level student at best, enters his senior year he realizes that he doesn't have any concrete college plans, so he decides to apply to the same schools as Jessica, believing that she will like him once they are in college together. Jessica has her heart set on Ramsey, a small private college, so Marlon applies there as well. Ramsey admission counselor Kip Hammett (Anthony Edwards) takes a liking to Marlon and gives him advice on how he can overcome the daunting task of getting into Ramsey. Meanwhile, Kip is having problems of his own, as the slick Leo (Charles Rocket) is attempting to take over the Ramsey admissions department and is making moves on Kip's girlfriend, fellows admissions worker Nina (Finn Carter). As the application deadline approaches, Marlon must do what he can to beef up his transcript, while Kip has to decide is he wants to continue working for a school which is focusing on numbers instead of students.

Aside from the absence of John Cusack (who killed in Better Off Dead and One Crazy Summer) the major difference between How I Got Into College and Holland's earlier films is that he didn't write the screenplay. This certainly shows at times, as some parts of the film are quite pedestrian, but that doesn't mean that Savage Steve didn't put his stamp on many scenes. The man who brought us the singing claymation hamburger in Better Off Dead and the rabid dolphin in One Crazy Summer is able to insert some crazy visuals into How I Got Into College, the best being Bruce Wagner and Tom Kenny (who is now the voice of Spongebob Squarepants) as two imaginary characters who show up in all of Marlon's S.A.T. questions. We also get a cameo from Holland regular Curtis Armstrong.

The story itself isn't necessarily bad either. Anyone who's taking the S.A.T. and applied to college knows that these are trying experiences and this movie captures many elements of that time. The best moments come with Jessica's attempts to separate herself from the other Ramsey applicants with a very funny interview scene. Yet, this aspect of the film gets too serious at times. When the movie veers away from Marlon to focus on Kip and his moral dilemma, the comedy comes to a stand-still. Sure, the sub-plot of Ramsey's admission department is interesting, but these scenes only emphasize the dichotomous nature of this movie. The cast of How I Got Into College is pretty good, even Parker -- although he's no John Cusack, he's still likable in the role. (Now his wardrobe is another story.) It's amazing to see how different Lara Flynn Boyle looked back then and she brings an innocence and insecurity to her role which is quite unlike her current persona. Why did Savage Steve Holland stop making feature films? I don't know, but the release of How I Got Into College completes his trilogy and gives us the opportunity to relive his original visions.

How I Got Into College applies to DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The DVD contains both the widescreen and full screen versions of the film. For the purposes of this review, only the full screen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The transfer is decent, but it does show some problems. The image looks somewhat washed out in many scenes and there is noticeable grain throughout the film. Artifacting defects are visible in many shots. Still, the image is stable and sharp, and at times the colors are quite good. The DVD contains a Dolby 2.0 surround track which delivers clear and audible dialogue. The stereo effects are good, but the surround action is limited to musical cues.

The only extras on this DVD are a pair of theatrical trailers for How I Got Into College, one being 30-seconds longer than the other.

6 out of 10 Jackasses

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