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Paramount Studios presents
Orange County (2002)

Shaun: You sent in the wrong transcript?
Mrs. Cobb: Now, you don't just throw accusations around here. This is nobody's fault.
Shaun: Yes, it is! It's your fault!

- Colin Hanks, Lily Tomlin

Review By: Joel Cunningham  
Published: July 08, 2002

Stars: Colin Hanks, Jack Black
Other Stars: Catherine O'Hara, Schuyler Fisk, John Lithgow, Chevy Chase, Harold Ramis
Director: Jake Kasdan

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for drug content, language, and sexuality
Run Time: 01h:22m:07s
Release Date: June 18, 2002
UPC: 097363359241
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B+A-B+ C+

DVD Review

Shaun (Hanks) is graduating high school with plans to ditch the sun and waves and shallow surfers of Orange County, California and go on to Stanford to study creative writing with his idol, Marcus Skinner. His future is derailed by an incompetent guidance counselor (Lily Tomlin) who sends the wrong transcripts in with his application. Facing four years in purgatory at a local college is more than Shaun can bear, even if his neurotic mother (Catherine O'Hara) and animal-loving girlfriend Ashley (Fisk) wouldn't mind him sticking around. Unwilling to just give up, Shaun and his stoner brother Lance (Black) take a trip to the University to try and convince the dean of admissions that he is truly Stanford material.

It's an unusual premise for a teen movie, particularly in an age when "intelligent humor" is a phrase that seems foreign to most of the recent entries in the genre. Orange County foregoes gross-out gags for character-oriented hilarity and low-key tangential humor. It's also surprisingly sweet; and Shaun's dueling desires—to go on to college or to stay with his girlfriend—are handled quite well.

The curious will be drawn by the pedigree of the cast and crew—star Colin Hanks is Tom's son, Schuyler Fisk is the daughter of Sissy Spacek, and Jake Kasdan shares the directorial enthusiasm of his father Lawrence—but what got me excited was the promise of another great script by Mike White. White, best known as the man behind guilty pleasure Dead Man on Campus and as a writer/producer for the criminally cancelled Freaks and Geeks and Pasadena, has an affinity for writing characters that feel wholly real, even when they are involved in off-the-wall situations. Certainly not all of Orange County is realistic, but White's humor is so subtle that even the broad jokes feel underplayed. He has obvious affection for his characters (not even Jack Black's spastic druggie is treated with contempt), which adds depth and warmth to the film, and to a genre often populated by characters who are little more that objects of ridicule.

Kasdan has the same flair for understatement as his father, and his style is a perfect match with White's script—he never overplays a joke or stretches a punch line, and he allows his actors to develop as characters rather than to simply rush to the next sight gag or witticism. Hanks and Fisk also show at times an eerie similarity to their famous progenitors, whilst stepping into their own as engaging and likeable young actors.

Orange County feels more than anything like a throwback to the John Hughes comedies of the 1980s, when teenaged heroes like Ferris Bueller reminded kids that there was more to life than poop jokes and sex.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Paramount always does great work with their new releases, and the bright colors of Orange County come off particularly well, rich and saturated without any blooming or bleeding. Blacks are nice and solid, and shadow detail is excellent. I noticed no artifacts, and just a bit of aliasing on some complex patterns. Edge enhancement is occasionally visible, but it isn't much of a distraction.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Frenchyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The DD 5.1 mix suffers from the "comedy syndrome," which means the surrounds stay basically silent throughout. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, as a dialogue-based comedy like Orange County doesn't demand a lot of surround action. Most importantly, speech is always clear and natural, anchored in the center channel. The front soundstage exhibits decent directionality, and opens up quite a bit during the frequent pop song interludes.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 17 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
15 TV Spots/Teasers
4 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Jake Kasdan and writer Mike White
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extras Review: Orange County's extras package starts of with a commentary from director Jake Kasdan and writer Mike White. The two were recorded together, and they manage to keep their comments coming and avoid long gaps of silence. The track is full of dry humor, basic production info, a few on-set anecdotes, and a lot of praise for the actors. It's all fairly standard stuff, and not particularly insightful, but it is pretty entertaining.

Four deleted scenes are included, with a total running time of about six minutes. Scenes are presented in their original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, but the quality is noticeably worse than the film, with a lot of digital grain evident. Regardless, the scenes offer excised jokes and subplots that were likely removed to keep the running time down. Lance and Durkett is a funny scene with Jack Black and Harold Ramis, with Black offering advice on what to do when "coming down" off of Ecstasy. Shaun's Fantasy is a brief look at the character's idealized college environment. Rehab is a short bit of weirdness from Black, and Mrs. Cobb Fights Back is actually made up of several scenes cobbled together, as Mrs. Cobb the guidance counselor protects herself quite forcefully from the student menace. All four scenes are certainly funny, but were probably best left on the cutting-room floor.

In the area of promotional materials, Paramount has included the theatrical trailer and 15 interstitials, which appears to be a fancy name for "TV spots." Six of them are simply clips from the film with shot, humorous introductions, but the remaining nine actually feature new footage (some of it funnier than anything in the advertised product). Make sure to check out the spots with Mike White as Mr. Burke, Shaun's hilariously inept English teacher ("The past should not be forgotten. It should be cherished. And run late nights, in syndication, after the local news.").

The quality is here, but not the quantity (where's the behind-the-scenes material?), which means Orange Country only just squeaks by with a passing grade.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Orange County is a smart and surprisingly sweet teen comedy that harkens back to the John Hughes classics of the 1980s (and is a breath of fresh air after the Freddie Prinze, Jr non-classics of the 1990s). It wasn't the box-office success it should've been, but the DVD more than does it justice.


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