Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"Me" Movies: Accepted

I enjoy two kinds of movies. The first kind is the “Good Movie.” Good Movies can be identified by such traits as intelligent writing, sensitive direction, quality acting, and the like: Network leaps to mind, or maybe Heathers. Not all good movies are good in every way – watching again as an adult, I was struck at how poor the dialogue and acting were in Star Wars – but they usually have enough good in them that you can endorse them in public and not feel cheap or exposed.

The second kind is the “Me Movie.” These are movies that, by any objective criteria, suck, but that speak to me anyway. Sometimes they're poorly executed, but have a brilliant premise: Grace Quigley, say, or Idiocracy. I'll forgive a lot for a brilliant premise. Sometimes they're horribly sloppy but capture some basic, and specific, truths that most movies just don't: Chasing Amy falls into this category (don't ask), as does Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy (“we kicked penicillin's sorry ass!”). Sometimes they just happen to feature an actress on whom I'm crushing wildly at the time. (I'm not made of stone, people.) And sometimes they have little moments that just jump off the screen, as if they were spliced in from another movie altogether.

Accepted is that last kind of Me Movie.

By any traditional measure, it's a steamer. The “I'm a Mac” guy stretches as an artist by playing a snot-nosed kid with a sense of entitlement. The premise is silly: kids who didn't get into college start one of their own. (Apparently, they've never heard of community colleges, which aren't mentioned once.) They cleverly call it the South Harmon Institute of Technology, generating big laffs from the acronym. The college doesn't have “faculty,” but nobody minds, since the students are all-knowing already. (Just ask them!) Students pay their tuition in full, in advance, without anybody even asking about financial aid. (What planet this takes place on is left unspoken.) When the college goes before the accrediting board to plead for its continued existence, The I'm-a-Mac guy delivers a self-indulgent rant to the board, winning their hearts with his plea for, um, artistic truth or something. (At least when the frat in Animal House made its plea, the members knew they were shoveling. The I'm-a-Mac guy seems to actually believe it.) The neighboring college is stuffy and intolerant, and the hero gets the girl with his authentic, um, artistic truth or something. Bleah.


Lewis Black as the Dean? Oh, hell yes.

Anybody familiar with Mr. Black's oeuvre will be unsurprised to learn that his character is irascible, profane, and vaguely unhinged, but with alarming vocal stamina. He's also even more unkempt (less kempt?) than he is on The Daily Show, apparently going for a sort of Jimmy-Buffett-the-morning-after look.

His meeting with the I'm-a-Mac guy's parents was pure genius. He cavalierly (and obscenely) dismissed all the usual highfalutin' justifications for higher education, finally settling on a really blunt invocation of high starting salaries. When he concluded the meeting with “Fuckin' A!”, I nearly fell off the couch. A dean who screams obscenities at parents, delivers drunken tirades in public to the approval of all, and visibly does not care one iota about appearances, propriety, or even sobriety is great fun to watch. It did my heart good.

It's a straight-up wish fulfillment kind of pleasure, but what the hell. A world in which deans are allowed to rant at such velocity that their hapless interlocutors emerge showered with spittle, gaping in open-mouthed disbelief? Yes, please.

I give Accepted three mortarboards, but I really couldn't argue with anyone who pronounced it craptacular. It's a Me Movie.

What's your Me Movie?