Orange County (2004) / Comedy-Drama
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for drug content, language and sexuality
Running Time: 82 min.
Cast: Colin Hanks, Jack Black, Schuyler Fisk, Catherine O'Hara, John Lithgow, Lily Tomlin
Director: Jake Kasdan
Screenplay: Mike White
Review published January 15, 2002
Orange County stars Colin Hanks (Get Over It, King Kong), son of Tom, as Shaun Brumder, an Orange County teen who always had excelled in his classes despite his lifestyle of surfing and parties. When he is told he has a good chance of getting into Stanford University, he focuses in on that path, working his tail off and is so confident of the advice that he only applies to Stanford after graduation. Well, things get FUBAR when his ditzy school counselor (Tomlin, The Kid) sends Stanford the wrong transcript and Shaun is rejected. Having been also told it's too late now, Shaun is determined, and along with his girlfriend (Fisk, The Best of Me) and druggie brother (Black, Shallow Hal), he travels up north to Stanford to try to set things right in person.
Orange County is only 85 minutes but feels like it's two hours due to the long stretches of time between occurrences that might be considered amusing. Although "Orange County" is prominently in the title, most of the film takes place on the road to or at Stanford, and the only things related to Orange County itself is the belief that all the inhabitants are rich and shallow who don't care about their delinquent children because they are too busy having affairs and/or getting sloshed. Typical California stereotypes abound: the dumb surfers, dumb cheerleaders, dumb environmentalists, and dumb druggies. The only one who isn't dumb of course is our protagonist, who spends his time writing a story that is nothing really new or interesting and for which he doesn't really have a satisfying ending to. Hmmm...sounds a little ironic being in this film.
The plot of Orange County is the opposite of the great teen angst film, The Graduate, to which it actually pays an homage with a stay in the bottom of a swimming pool. Instead of a teen rejecting all that his parents and the rest of society wants him to be, we have one who practically has to do everything himself, without adequate parenting, schooling or particularly helpful friends. While Hoffman did everything he could to eschew the pressures to be upright, Hanks does everything he can to embrace them. Unfortunately, this is reading deeper into the film than is really warranted because Orange County is also the opposite of The Graduate in another notable way: The Graduate is good.
Orange County is devoid of anything fresh or funny and leads one to wonder how the never-ending rash of forgettable teen comedies will end if screenwriters themselves seem to have forgotten what's already been done ad nauseam with little success.
©2002 Vince Leo