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A Little Polishing Gone too Far

‘Orange County:’ No Fruit Jokes Here

By Dan Robey

Directed by Jake Kasdan

Written by Mike White

Starring Colin Hanks, Jack Black

Rated PG-13

Orange County is not the typical teen movie. Then again, it is. A smooth mix of teen comedy and drama, Orange County is too smooth at times.

Shaun Brumder (Colin Hanks) is a high school senior from Orange County. Feeling underwhelmed by his surfer-dude lifestyle, he comes across a book washed up on the beach which changes his life. After reading it obsessively, he decides to devote his life to writing. He gives up surfing to pursue his dream of getting into Stanford and working with Marcus Skinner, the author of the book he found on the beach.

Shaun’s guidance counselor accidentally sends another student’s transcript to Stanford, effectively halving his GPA and SAT scores. Needless to say, he is rejected, and he is forced to resort to get help from his chemically enhanced brother, Lance (Jack Black).

Lance didn’t go to college, and is, to quote Shaun, “perpetually recovering from the night before.” He has an impressive collection of pill bottles, the organizational scheme of which is always in a state of flux. From his first moment on-screen, we sense that Lance is a good natured person, whose plans are constantly foiled by his habits of excess.

Lance, Shaun, and his girlfriend drive to Stanford to contact the dean there and explain the situation to him. Lance goes for the James Bond approach, while Shaun and his girlfriend look up the deans residence in the phone book.

In the end, a fateful meeting between Shaun and his idol, Marcus Skinner, gives Shaun the guidance he so desperately needs to decide what is right for his life.

Although Orange County has the mandatory gags and antics of teen movies, including near-ingestion of bodily fluids, accidental druggings, and meddlesome friends, it also has chords of deeper qualities. The characters, though stereotypical at times, have actual dimension. Even with standard teen gags, there is clever comedy lurking about the movie. In one scene, a funeral for a surfer, all the attendees are dressed in black bikinis and board shorts.

Jack Black makes the movie what it is. His brand of comedy succeeds in adding a few poignant moments to the movie. He is also the driving force behind most of the storyline. As much as Shaun thinks his brother is a deadbeat, we see that he really cares for Shaun, and would do anything to help.

Even more frightening is the drama under the comedy. The classic tale of a youth coming to grips with his birthplace combined with coming of age blends surprisingly well with the comedy. The package borders on being too slick. Lines are delivered at the exact moment they are needed, and visual gags work too well. In polishing the movie, it seems to have lost much of its edge.

Subplots abound, adding to the delicate weave of the movie. The other stories are never enough to disrupt the movie, and in the end draw it even into an even tighter storyline. Divorced parents find their new lives lacking something, Shaun’s girlfriend feels that if he goes to Stanford it will be the end of their relationship. All these sketches of stories combine to form a cleanly directed movie.

In fact, the only real flaw in the movie, aside from the fact they play Crazytown’s “Butterfly” over and over and over, is that it is such a cleanly woven story. The storyline flows too smoothly. No real surprises happen along the way, and in many places, I felt as if I was just drifting with the current. All the jokes have been seen before, the story has been heard before. The package is the only thing that has changed.

Orange County is a slick, stylish teen movie. The gags and storyline will provide two hours of enjoyment, but it lacks the kick that might make it memorable. While it might have been poignant, Orange County is too polished to truly resonate.