This is a very uneven film; often switching from comedy to heavy-handed mature themes almost on a dime. The comedy for the most part hits the mark. The dramatic elements are just not believable.
I have never seen a film go to so much trouble to humiliate its main character. Some of the things that happen to McCarthy are pretty funny, but others almost make you feel sorry for the poor kid. McCarthy is barely on campus for five minutes before Lowe convinces him to put on women's underwear and parade around in the commons area. McCarthy thinks it is some type of senior ritual that is done every year, but he soon finds out that only he is participating in it. Lowe then locks him out of their dorm and he is forced to climb in through a second story window with hundreds of other students taunting him. Now that is the type of thing that can scar for life! There are a few other scenes where McCarthy's humiliation continues. He journeys to a trendy bar in Chicago and is made a fool of twice in front of the whole place. In a show of sympathy, a rich older woman feels sorry for him and takes him to a motel and nails him. In what has to be one of the biggest contrivances in movie history, that woman turns out to be Lowe's unbalanced alcoholic mother! They screw around for a few weekends before she finds out he goes to her son's school and then promptly runs out on him. (That would be a hell of a thing to learn!) The film's biggest laugh comes from the scene directly after that one. In it, McCarthy is sitting in the rain at a bus stop waiting for Lowe to show up and give him a lift back to school. He couldn't be any more depressed until Lowe comes screeching up to the stop; sending a tidal wave of rain water cascading over the dejected McCarthy! McCarthy is depressed for quite a while after being dumped, but he is still unaware that the woman of his dreams was his best friend's mother. In a truly uncomfortable scene at their home during the Xmas holiday, they meet again. The film gets way too serious from that point on.
The only laughs in the last half hour stem from the investigation of stolen SAT tests on the campus by a nerdy bureaucrat from the state attorney general's office. In one hilarious scene, the students think the officer is there to bust them for drugs. We see about a hundred young men scurrying to the bathroom to flush all of their joints, pills, and whatnot. One guy even tries to flush an entire pot plant that's about six feet high! Towards the end, things get really serious. Lowe finally finds out his mother and McCarthy are screwing around. He knows McCarthy illegally bought an SAT test. Will he turn him in? Will the boys get into Harvard? What will become of Lowe's parents? What will become of McCarthy's dog? If you care enough to find out, give this film a chance. If nothing else, it has some very early performances by some people who went on to greater things. It was McCarthy's debut. Alan Ruck, John Cusak, Virginia Madsen (nice boob shot, by the way!), and several other recognizable faces are present.
6 of 10 stars.
So sayeth the Hound.