Orange County

Orange County


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

It seems like a miracle. Here is a teen comedy that doesn't gross out on penis/fart jokes. What is more, Jack Black's in the house and radically wasted. Also, if that's not enough, the main man/kid is a nice guy with a brain in his head. You'll laugh, honest!

Shaun (Colin Hanks - Tom's son) was a surfer and a dude and a high school fly-by until he finds a paperback on the beach, reads it, loves it, wants to be a writer and go to Stanford University, where the book's author teaches. It's so has-to-be. He gives up wave life, much to the dismay of his board buddies, and swots. He does good, because behind that teen sheen is an untapped intellect. His girlfriend (Schuyler Fisk - Sissy Spacek's daughter) backs him all the way, even though she knows that if he goes, she'll lose him, but then she's like that, thinking of others more than herself and caring about animals even more. Despite this, she's not a complete pain. She's freckly and sweet and, when it comes to it, fiercely determined.

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Shaun's problem is his family. Don't even use the word dysfunction. That's too normal. Mum (Catherine O'Hara) is on the edge of a nervous breakdown unless she has a glass of wine in her hand when she becomes embarrassing. Dad (John Lithgow) ran off with a bimbo from the gym and lives in misery somewhere else, with a four-year-old son and too much money. Shaun's elder brother (Black) is "a drugged out loser", who doesn't work and lies around totally stoned and half-naked. Mum's second husband slumps in a wheelchair, gurgling. He may have Alzheimer's, or has simply gone mad and no one's noticed.

The movie recounts Shaun's attempts to get accepted into Stanford after the school messes up his entry papers. This entails mega mishaps and criminal damage, none of which seems entirely beyond the realm of possibility. Twenty-six-year old Jake Kasdan, son of Lawrence, directs with admirable flair and buckets full of enthusiasm. The script by Mike (Chuck & Buck) White stays the funny side of silly and never runs away into the land of the loons, although Black in full flow is difficult to control.

The performances are a delight. Hanks has inherited his father's comic style, low key and thoroughly decent. Fisk has inherited her mother's wide-eyed innocence, touched with something stronger than the promise of a barn dance. Black is back to his High Fidelity form - this comedy is dangerous - and both O'Hara and Lithgow give lessons in middle-aged angst, with hilarious effect.

Orange County is beachfront suburbia, where the sun burns ambition to a crisp. Now it has a boy with a dream, whose family need help.

Reviewed on: 07 Nov 2002
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Would-be college student battles entry problems and his dysfunctional family to get in to Stanford.
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Director: Jake Kasdan

Writer: Mike White

Starring: Colin Hanks, Jack Black, Catherine O'Hara, Schuyler Fisk, John Lithgow, Harold Ramis, Lily Tomlin

Year: 2002

Runtime: 82 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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