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Thursday 30 March 2023

Burl reviews How I Got Into College! (1989)


Ha ha, rapscallions, it’s Burl here with a new review for you! This one is the last part of what I’ve always thought of as a loose trilogy, but which in fact is not a trilogy at all – it’s just three movies made by the same guy! That guy is Savage Steve Holland, and the not-a-trilogy I’m talking about is Better Off Dead, One Crazy Summer, and the picture under review today, How I Got Into College!

Of course the first two feature John Cusack, and this third picture does not, so you might debate its place in this nonexistent triumvirate! I myself, as a teen, was a big fan of Better Off Dead and a much lesser one of One Crazy Summer, but never did bother seeing this one until just the other day, so I guess I myself also discounted its place in the Savage Steve oeuvre! But I’ve always been aware of the movie and very slightly curious about it, so when I ran across a used DVD of the thing I thought to myself “Ha ha, now’s the time!”

And the plot? Ha ha, it’s pretty much right there in the title! Our protagonist is a high school lackwit named Marlon, played by Corey Parker from Friday the 13th part V: A New Beginning; an amiable enough sort, but almost aggressive in his disinterest in any intellectual pursuit! His overriding passion is for a pretty, sociable, smart girl in the school, Jessica Kailo, impersonated by Lara Flynn Boyle from Poltergeist III! She’s friendly, on the order of a character like Diane Court from Say Anything (the picture Cusack did instead of this one, I suppose), but is only vaguely aware of Marlon's existence, despite the constant creepy pining for her he does over all the years of high school!

The plot and title kick in when it becomes time to apply for a college! We follow Marlon and Jessica separately as they try for a fictional athenaeum called Ramsey College, and also meet the Ramsey recruiting squad, which includes one called Kip Hammet, played by top-billed Anthony Edwards from The Sure Thing, and also the picture’s nominal antagonist, a dapper dan named Leo, essayed by Charles Rocket from Fraternity Vacation! And there are other Ramsay candidates, like a football player (Duane Davis from A Nightmare on Elm Street 4) and a girl who works at McDonalds (Tichina Arnold from Little Shop of Horrors)!

Being a moron, Marlon’s biggest challenge is passing the SAT, which is apparently some kind of test you need to pass to get accepted to an American college! Marlon employs a pair of coaches to help him, and these are played by Nora Dunn from Shake, Rattle & Rock and the always-welcome Phil Hartman from Small Soldiers! Meanwhile we get the debates of the recruiting committee, some jousting for the deanship, the worries and tribulations of the various students, the growing (though unrealistic) potential for romance between Marlon and Jessica, and little imaginary scenarios involving the hypothetical A and B of the SAT word questions, who grow increasingly resentful of Marlon for his idiocy! (One of these hypothetical fellows is played by noted eccentric Bruce Wagner, a screenwriter who wrote David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars and appeared as an actor in Wes Craven’s Shocker!)

We also get a long parade of familiar faces in the cast, including Philip Baker Hall from Three O’Clock High as the dean of recruitment; Bill Raymond from C.H.U.D. as the recruiter who accidentally accepted a pig; Brian Doyle-Murray from Vacation as a coach; Robert Ridgely from The Wild Life as Jessica’s dad; Richard Jenkins from The Witches of Eastwick as Marlon’s dad; Bill Henderson from The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai as another coach; O-Lan Jones from The Right Stuff as a secretary; Curtis Armstrong from Revenge of the Nerds in a cameo as a bible college recruiter; Diane Franklin from The Last American Virgin as Marlon’s comely stepmom; Helen Lloyd Breed from Funny Farm as Jessica’s mom; and Taylor Negron, who played a mailman in Better Off Dead, is again a mailman here – ha ha, maybe the same mailman! Plus it ends with a cameo from Bob Eubanks of Johnny Dangerously fame, here riding majestically in the back of a pink Cadillac filled with pretty girls!

Phew, ha ha! There are a lot of balls kept in the air for a 90 minute comedy, and the picture pulls the multistory element off surprisingly well! As a procedural story about the difficulties of getting into college it’s only sporadically interesting, and relies far too much on fantastical characters, like Edwards’s beneficent cool-dude recruiter, and unlikely scenarios to reach its resolution! Marlon is a fairly annoying personality, but I liked that the movie focused just as much on Jessica, makes her a human instead of a puppy-love object, and occasionally interrogates her alleged perfection – it’s very like Say Anything in that way, and in several other ways as well!

Just about everything in the movie is serviceable, and the picture as a whole is good-natured, but it rarely rises above that – laffs are sprinkled here and there, but it never gets very uproarious! I thought it was ok, but not much more, so I give How I Got Into College two plaid jackets!

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