Orange County

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Movie Review by Dave Blair

Starring: Colin Hanks, Jack Black, Catherine O’Hara, Schuyler Fisk, John Lithgow

Director: Jake Kasdan

The movie debuts of Shyler Fisk (daughter of Sissy Spacek) and Colin Hanks sees Fisk’s Ashley help her surfer dude boyfriend Sean (Hanks, son of Tom) escape his comfortable middle class Orange County existance in pursuit of his dream – to learn to become a great writer under the tutoring of his literary hero at Stanford University.

The movie’s pivotal moment comes with Sean’s unlikely discovery of an inspirational novel half-buried in sand, which comforts (his best pal has just died in a surfing incident) and motivates him to take a shot at gaining a place at the revered Ivy League institution. An incompetent high school administrator mistakenly sends the school simpleton’s reference to Stanford, apparently ending our hero’s noble dream. It takes the efforts of his well-intentioned family members (the standard mix of small-town cliche half-wits and social misfits) to talk the university admissions office into taking a chance with him. There follows some sub-Farrelly brothers humour as his sloth-like druggie brother drives Sean to Stanford.

Fisk and Hanks junior are likeable performers, and empathy for the latter actor’s sardonic dreamer keeps the film watchable despite bad visual gags and the done-to-death teen/road movie format. I won’t criticise the Hollywood nepotism in casting, however.

As Kevin Kline, Ben Stiller, Chevy Chase and others pop up you’ll find yourself asking “What was he in?” plenty of times during Orange County’s 83 minutes. Indeed it may be the most enjoyable thing about this distinctly pedestrian attempt at wacky tragic-comedy. As a viewer you’ll leave wondering if you’ve seen a reasonable stab at metaphor for the adolescent dream fizzling out, or just a messy farce.

3 out of 6 stars