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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Stealing Harvard (2002)

Duff: John wait, we should make up some fake names.
John: Why?
Duff: In case we have to communicate while we are inside.
John: Oh, OK.
Duff: I wanna be Kyle. I knew this guy at camp named Kyle, he was maybe thirteen and he got two girls pregnant. Two girls pregnant!!

- Tom Green, Jason Lee

Review By: Kevin Clemons   
Published: February 17, 2003

Stars: Jason Lee, Tom Green
Other Stars: Leslie Mann, Dennis Farina, John C. McGinley, Richard Jenkins, Megan Mullally, Chris Penn
Director: Bruce McCulloch

Manufacturer: DVDL
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Crude and sexual humor, language, and drug references
Run Time: 01h:42m:12s
Release Date: February 18, 2003
UPC: 043396066847
Genre: comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
D+ C+A-B C+

DVD Review

If you take the total amount of talent involved in Stealing Harvard, minus Tom Green of course, it is easy to understand the anticipation I had for what I hoped would be a smart comedy. There is Jason Lee, who is an amazingly charismatic actor; Megan Mullally, whose television work on Will and Grace is the very definition of priceless; and director Bruce McCulloch, who is perhaps the funniest member of the Canadian sketch troupe The Kids In The Hall. Unfortunately, the results are far less than those I had hoped for; this outing is just a painfully bland and boring comedy, among the largest disappointments I have seen in quite some time.

The basic premise is screaming with the potential to be satirical and unabashedly comedic, yet it feels restrained and unenergetic. John (Lee) is a nice guy whose life is starting to come together just in time for adulthood. He is engaged to Elaine (Mann), a beautiful but high maintenance woman who, for some inexplicable reason, weeps uncontrollably each time they have sex (more on that later). John and Elaine have saved thirty thousand dollars in the hopes of owning their own house and starting a long life together, but then disaster strikes. Banking on a promise he made to his niece Noreen (Tammy Blanchard) that if she got into college he would pay for her first year, John's sister Patty (Mullally) calls her brother on his promise and expects him to produce thirty thousand dollars within only a few weeks.

Lost and searching for a solution, John turns to his best friend Duff (Green) for help. Duff's idea is to obtain the money through illegal methods, including breaking and entering into the house of a wealthy judge, as well as robbing a convenience store. As the pair go about their plan they are trailed by John's boss (Farina), who also happens to be his future father-in-law, as well as a cop (McGinley) who is hot on their trail.

To be honest, there is something wholly innocent and winning about Stealing Harvard in that is does not sink to bathroom humor in order to obtain cheap laughs. Those who may remember (God knows I have tried to forget) Green for his work in front of and behind the camera in Freddy Got Fingered will be pleased that he shows unusual restraint here and, in doing so, adds to the wellness of the film. At the same time, this same restraint leads to boredom. The situations presented have the potential to be humorous, but McCulloch seems unsure how to handle them. His editing and pacing seem off in several instances, leaving the story to play anything but carefree.

The script by Peter Tolan is criminal in its use of its supporting characters, many of whom are more enjoyable than the lead protagonists. Lee's everyman and Green's over the top sidekick grow tiresome as the film drags towards its eighty-minute length, but performances by Farina, Chris Penn, Megan Mullally, and John C. McGinley are so note-perfect that I found myself wishing that the film had been built around them. Another problem is that several jokes are introduced with no resolution, some of which involve Elaine. Why bring up the issue of her weeping during intercourse if there will be no punch line or resolution to the situation? Another is her relationship with the Farina character; clearly John is a tad uneasy about their closeness, but we never find out why the pair is so inseparable.

There are moments of humor sprinkled throughout Stealing Harvard, but not enough. Several throw away lines and reaction shots reveal perfect comedic ability in the cast, but overall the picture offers no sense of spirit. To gauge the amount of humor in this film, take this example: My girlfriend and I spent a Sunday morning watching the film and neither of us more than chuckled.

Rating for Style: D+
Rating for Substance: C+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: A 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer is undoubtedly the selling point here on DVD; it is as crisp a picture as you are likely to see. Sharpness and detail are perfec,t giving the transfer a very film-like look, and detail is done so well that scenes featuring Duff's landscaping reveal the creases in the leaves of the bushes as he prunes. Colors are very vibrant with no bleeding. No edge enhancement is noticeable.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
English, Frenchyes


Audio Transfer Review: Stealing Harvard gets a very basic Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that is largely dialogue heavy with no real use of the surround speakers, which only come to life along with the .1 LFE track in the heavy rap and rock soundtrack.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring xXx, Anger Management, Maid in Manhattan, Darkness Falls, and The New Guy
5 Deleted Scenes
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extras Review: A collection of five deleted scenes are available, and many are rightfully excised from the finished cut. There are a few more sequences involving Patty and Noreen as well as another featuring Tom Green being, well more like Tom Green.

Filmographies are included for each actor as well as Bruce McCulloch and writers Peter Tolan and Martin Hynes. Finally, there are trailers for Stealing Harvard, xXx, Anger Management, Maid in Manhattan, Darkness Falls, and The New Guy.

Extras Grade: C+

 

Final Comments

Stealing Harvard does not make a case to be labeled an essential comedy, but the supporting performances are decent enough to make the film slightly interesting. Those expecting great comedy will be severely disappointed.

 


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