Printer Friendly

IVY LEAGUE FILM WILL BE LUCKY TO EARN BACK CREATOR'S TUITION.

Byline: Bob Strauss Film Critic

JAMES TOBACK, the respectable screenwriter (``Bugsy,'' ``The Gambler'') and undisciplined personal filmmaker (``The Pick-up Artist,'' ``Two Girls and a Guy,'' ``Black and White''), underwent an eight-day LSD trip while studying at Harvard in 1965.

Can you say ``flashback''? Toback's latest directing effort, ``Harvard Man,'' works an extended psychedelic meltdown into most of its third act. But that's not what makes the film play like a cinematic acid casualty.

Toback's usual, ungainly combination of intellectual pretension, B-movie plotting and exultant vice is taken to particularly laughable, hallucinatory extremes here. It's like everything a stoned sophomore might think would be cool - until he came down - all mixed together without any governing design.

Set more or less in the present, the film starts out with a hilarious (but apparently unrecognized by the author) joke: that scrawny philosophy major Alan Jensen (Adrian Grenier) would not only be a key scholarship player on Harvard's basketball team, but that big mob money would ride on fixing Ivy League games.

From that tip-off, matters descend into real ridiculousness. Alan's cheerleader girlfriend from Holy Cross, Cindy Bandolini (Sarah Michelle Gellar), is the daughter of a New England mafia boss who wants very much to get her own godmother racket going. She sees her chance when a tornado - that's right, a tornado - wipes out Alan's family home back in Kansas, rendering him willing to throw a game for enough of a cut to rehouse his parents.

In his more high-minded moments, Alan is also bedding Professor Chesney Court (kitten-voiced Joey Lauren Adams). When not canoodling with students or lecturing on Wittgenstein in a backless blouse, this particularly unconvincing orator enjoys kinky three-ways with bookmaking couple Teddy (Eric Stoltz) and Kelly (Rebecca Gayheart), who conveniently do business with the Bandolinis. Chesney, as it works out, is the film's moral center of gravity. Thought you'd be glad to know.

Anyway, Alan's game-throwing gets him and others into a whole heap of trouble. And just as the crisis peaks, he helps matters by dropping enough acid to fry the next Woodstock festival. So, while running for his life from gun-wielding (and, remember, Harvard) teammates, sub-Tarantino hit men and equally ruthless FBI agents, Alan can't stop seeing faces mutate (not exactly what most bad trips are really like) and hearing a constant crescendo of inner brain noise (pretty accurately evoked).

At one point, Al Franken, playing Al Franken trying to convince his uncertain daughter that she should matriculate at his alma mater, encounters the freaked-out Alan on the banks of the Charles (one of the few parts of the movie not filmed in Canada). Her skepticism about the value of a Harvard education is, naturally enough, only reinforced. Yours will be, too, after seeing the loony mishmash a recipient of one of our culture's finer educations has made of ``Harvard Man.''

HARVARD MAN - One and one half stars

(Rated R: sex, drug use, violence, nudity, language)

Starring: Adrian Grenier, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Joey Lauren Adams, Eric Stoltz, Rebecca Gayheart.

Director: James Toback.

Running time: 1 hr. 40 min.

Playing: UA Marketplace, Pasadena; Arclight, Hollywood; University Town Center, Irvine.

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

Rebecca Gayheart, right, subdues Sarah Michelle Gellar (who apparently forgot her martial-arts training) in ``Harvard Man.''
COPYRIGHT 2002 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2002, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Review; U
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 5, 2002
Words:540
Previous Article:TOUGH TO BEAT MODERN DANCE TROUPE TOUTS RESILIENCE IN 'STICKS & STONES'.
Next Article:CARPE DIEM DOMINIQUE SWAIN IS MAKING HAY WHILE THE SPOTLIGHT OF FAME SHINES.


Related Articles
Sultans of academe.
I Don't Owe U.
DAILY UPDATE.
DAY IN SPORTS: BRASSFIELD SHOWS METTLE FOR MONTCLAIR.
ON BEST-COLLEGE LIST, HUMBLE NAMES RULE.
'STEALING HARVARD' FLUNKS OUT IN EVERY SUBJECT.
Super-Species contest winners: where on Earth will you find these 10 outrageous creatures? In the imaginations of Science World readers! They're the...
Taking off the mask: rediscovering Nat Taylor and the B-movies of Canada's past.
Writing camps: got skills?

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters