Shaun Brumder (Colin Hanks) is a surfie would be college boy like all his friends in Orange County, where the sun ‘n surf lifestyle is the only way to go. Until one day Shaun finds a book buried in the sand, a novel called Straight jacket by Marcus Skinner (Kevin Kline) captivates him and triggers his interest. With a purpose, he now wants to be a writer, and applies to Stanford. A mix up in his papers sees him rejected and dejected. But he’s not through yet, even though his girlfriend Ashley (Schuyler Fisk) and his possessive, slightly neurotic and wine-imbibing mother (Catherine O’Hara) are happy he’s staying around. His ever-stoned brother Lance (Jack Black) and his newly re-married father (John Lithgow) don’t seem to care either way.
Review by Richard Kuipers:
Sons and daughters of Hollywood heavyweights, take a bow. The oldies must be proud of your efforts in this funny and poignant tale of a young man with a dream. Jake Kasdan proves his first film, Zero Effect, was no fluke as he puts Tom Hanks' boy Colin and Schyler Fisk (Sissy Spacek and Jack Fisk's daughter) through a very entertaining 82 minutes of offbeat fun in the California sun. I warmed to this film from the moment Sean Brumner (Colin Hanks) said there's 'got to be more to life than extreme sports and getting laid'. I liked it even more when his English teacher started enthusing about how 'lots of great movies were based on Shakespeare'. Snappy pop culture jokes are just part of the attraction in this neatly twisted but never comically grotesque tale of a teen with noble ambition. What makes this so appealing is the affection Mike White's screenplay has for the oddballs surrounding Sean and the delightful performances of the actors playing these juicy comic roles. Catherine O'Hara is a heartbreaking scream as Sean's tipsy single mum, Jack Black revels in tailor-made conditions as the spaced-out brother and John Lithgow is wonderfully pompous, then vulnerable, as Sean's errant dad. Look out for plenty of other fun cameos from actors who've done sterling work for Kasdan, Sr as this teen-flick with a brain and a sharp sense of humour makes its way to the hallowed halls of Stanford University. This is a breath of fresh air and it rattles along at a zippy pace with change from an hour and a half, just as every good comedy should.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Too much is expected of the basic ideas in this film, which might be slotted in the pre-campus comedy genre, and while it is inoffensive and innocuous, it is also inconsequential. On the other hand, there are lots of fun things here, and the target market of late teens early 20s will probably get off on it more than I. Indeed, the handful of souls at the media preview seemed to laugh and giggle more than I, too . . . The characters are a bit too plastic to engage me, and the formula structure is too banal for my liking. Colin son of Tom is appealing but not stretched, and the funny business is laid on too heavy handedly to be much fun. Too many devices are allowed through in the final draft (eg: all characters needed to conveniently tie up the strands are at the same party) and too many scenes are overstated and the gags a bit obvious. Too ho hum.
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ORANGE COUNTY (PG)
CAST: Colin Hanks, Jack Black, Catherine O’Hara, Schuyler Fisk, John Lithgow, Harold Ramis, Lily Tomlin, Chevy Chase and cameos by Kevin Kline & Ben Stiller
PRODUCER: Scott Aversano, David Gale, Scott Rudin, Van Toffler
DIRECTOR: Jake Kasdan
SCRIPT: Mike White
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Greg Gardiner
EDITOR: Tara Timpone
MUSIC: Michael Andrews (and others)
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Gary Frutkoff
RUNNING TIME: 82 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 22, 2002
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount
VIDEO RELEASE: April 11, 2003 (also on DVD)