Comedy is hard. Just ask the people who made Stealing Harvard (2002). Directed by Kids in the Hall alum Bruce McCulloch, starring Jason Lee and Tom Green, Stealing Harvard provides some (some, meaning not nearly enough) funny and charming moments, but really not enough to carry the film. At the time of writing this review, there are over 100 used copies for sale here, and the lowest price is under a couple of bucks. That should tell you something...
Anyway, the film is about a character named John Plummer (Lee) and an off the cuff promise he made to his college bound niece when she was younger, a promise that just happened to be caught on video tape, and one where he told her that if she ever got into college, he would pay for it...well, it's many years later, and she does get into college, Harvard, in fact, and now she needs $30,000 to make up what isn't covered by herself and her scholarships. John does have the money, but problem is, it's earmarked for him and his fiancée Elaine, played by Leslie Mann, to buy a home and get married. In an effort to find another way to come up with the money, John turns to his friend Walter P. `Duff' Duffy (Green), a half-wit with a penchant for coming up with plenty of schemes to obtain the money, most being highly illegal.
So what's wrong with the movie? I guess the main thing is it just wasn't that funny. I do like Jason Lee and I even think Tom Green is pretty funny, in the context of his MTV show, but the comedy is very sparse throughout the film, and I never really felt like the main characters ever really gelled. I actually found some of the supporting characters in Dennis Farina (John's boss and future father-in-law), Megan Mullally (John's sister and mother of his niece), John C. McGinley (the intense bald-headed police detective), and Seymour Cassel (Duffy's uncle who provides the boys with one of their many plans to get the money) to be funnier and more interesting to watch than the main characters. Lee and Green just never really clicked full on for me. I had read that Owen Wilson was originally wanted for Green's part, and I think that would have worked better, as it seemed pretty obvious that a lot of Green's screen antics were probably improvised, and in small doses can be funny, but not in the large volumes we are given here. Had the comedy been more persuasive throughout the film, I probably wouldn't have had time to dwell on whether or not the characters worked well together. As I said before, I do think Tom Green is pretty funny, at least he was on his MTV show, and in small doses, but here we just get too much of him, and his weird, flaky, in-your-face schtick drags on and gets old fast. If you want a much better example of this and/or you're a real glutton for punishment, go pick up his 2001 release of Freddie Got Fingered. Am I saying Tom Green ruined the movie? Nope, as I felt there just wasn't really that much of a movie to ruin. I say ruined, but the movie wasn't really that bad, but I would have a hard time recommending anyone run out and see it, or even rent it, for that matter, as even though the film ran a paltry 82 minutes, it's few truly comic moments do not add up to a funny movie.
The wide screen print here looks very good, and special features include deleted scenes (although I could not tell why they were deleted as they would have fleshed out the runtime and even added a bit more to the storyline, but whatever...), filmographies, and trailers for various Paramount releases. All in all, if you are looking to kill an hour and twenty minutes, or you're a die-hard Tom Green fan, then this film is for you.