"Stealing Harvard" is an act of grand theft--the way it wastes your time is a crime. It's so bad that you have to wonder whether Tom Green was looking for a project to match last year's "Freddy Got Fingered," which he directed and which ended up on many worst of 2001 lists. Green didn't direct this turkey, but it surely is a contender for the bottom of the barrel award for 2002.
Jason Lee is John, a timid soul engaged to Elaine (Leslie Mann), the pretty daughter of his overbearing boss, Mr. Warner (Dennis Farina), a widower whose possessiveness of Elaine borders on the incestuous. Elaine announces to John that after much scrimping and saving, they have at last accrued $30,000 for a down payment on a house.
The conservative John reluctantly agrees, having forgotten that years earlier he promised his bright little niece Noreen (Tammy Blanchard), the daughter of his trailer-trash older sister Patty (Megan Mullally), that he would send her to college. Now finishing high school, Patty is ecstatic that she has been accepted to Harvard, won a partial scholarship and arranged further financial aid. All she needs from her Uncle John is a mere--you guessed it--$30,000.
The loving but none-too-bright John can't bring himself to let down either his fiancée or his niece, so he turns for help to his best pal, Duff, who is played by Green. Not only is Duff none too bright himself, but he is a hyper weirdo as well. Thus "Stealing Harvard" proceeds from one labored and unfunny shenanigan to another until it peters out to a predictably happy ending. Bruce McCulloch directed in uninspired fashion Peter Tolan's equally uninspired script.
Considering the direness of the circumstances, Lee and Mann cannot be blamed for being so charmless. The same could be said for Green; no one would ever guess how original and hilarious he can be. Farina actually manages to find some humor in his role, as does Seymour Cassel as Duff's larcenous uncle. As reliable as John C, McGinley and Chris Penn are, McGinley's hysterical cop and Penn's lowlife thug are such lousy, over-the-top parts not even they can make anything of them. With luck, "Stealing Harvard" will steal away from theaters pretty swiftly.
MPAA rating: PG-13, for crude and sexual humor, language and drug uses. Times guidelines: crude is the word all around.
A Columbia Pictures release of a Revolution Studios and Imagine Entertainment presentation. Director Bruce McCulloch. Producer Susan Cavan. Executive producers Howard Lapides, Maureen Peyrot, Chris Brancato and Albert J. Salke. Screenplay Peter Tolan; from a story by Martin Hynes and Tolan. Cinematographer Ueli Steiger. Editor Malcolm Campbell. Music Christophe Beck. Costumes Betsy Heimann. Production designer Gregory Keen. Art director Steven Schwartz. Set designer Mark Poll. Set decorator Leslie Morales. Running time: 1 hour, 23 minutes.
In general release.