Jake Kasdan (son of Lawrence) directs Colin Hanks (son of Tom) in Orange County, a Wonder Boys for the teeny-bopper sect. Nerdy Shawn (Hanks) trades surfing for creative writing via a sand-covered book written by a Stanford professor (Kevin Kline). He’s rejected from the school, no thanks to a loopy guidance counselor (an underused Lily Tomlin). Shawn fails to fix the misunderstanding with a simple phone call, instead opting for a high-jinks road trip to his prospective college community. The boy is more bummed by the screw-up than his dysfunctional home life: Mom (Catherine O’Hara) is a drunk, step-Dad is wheelchair-bound and his parolee brother (Jack Black) can’t quite get off the drugs. His real father (John Lithgow) is distant though it isn’t long before the man discards his young second wife in favor of old-school familial normalcy. Brother, girlfriend Ashley (Schuyler Fisk, daughter of Sissy Spacek), and ecstasy tablets in tow, Shawn clears up his academic mix-ups only to realize that there’s no place like home. As written by Mike White, Orange County is less like Chuck and Buck and more like “Freaks and Geeks.” Wildly inconsistent though frequently funny, the film is carried on the weight of a series of subversive scenarios and the uniformly excellent cast. Kasdan may not know how to lessen the impact of the film’s ready-made clichés (remember: if you open a college letter with excessive glee on your face, prepare to be rejected), but White’s jokes are genuinely cutting, especially when boredom and drugs give way to slippery sexuality. Hanks is certainly likeable—his body language recalls his father’s more awkward years (Money Pit, Bachelor Party). The adults, though, are the stars here: O’Hara is devilishly dramatic (“Relax, it’s just urine!”), but Black and Jane Adams (as a Stanford admissions desk girl) steal the show with their straight-faced approach to putting out a fire.
- Jake Kasdan
- Mike White
- Colin Hanks, Schuyler Fisk, Catherine O'Hara, Jack Black, John Lithgow, Lily Tomlin, Harold Ramis, Leslie Mann, Natasha Melnick, Olivia Rosewood, Anne Aubin, Mike White, Alex Breckenridge
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