1998, Movies

Dead Man on Campus (1998, Alan Cohn)

This is a very dumb movie with a very dumb plot which I was apparently very much in the mood for – I was drinking… – but which succeeds as much as it does due to its heavy reliance on jokes and also a very good sense of “Wasn’t college the best?” nostalgia which, having attended a party school, I can mainline pretty easily.

It helps to go into this movie with little in the way of expectations because the plot is really, really dumb: two odd couple roommates in danger of flunking out have to recruit a depressed roommate who will commit suicide so that they can get straight As. Yup, that’s the plot of this movie.

Fortunately, everything else about the film works well: Scott and Gosselaar are pretty well cast as the shy nerd and party animal respectively. What’s more, their relationship is believable because its a little more complex than you might expect – they are friends because they need each other in a way that happens (in my experience) quite a lot in college (i.e. university) but they also annoy each other.

The college hijinks are refreshingly tame, as well. Yes, things happen in this movie that would never happen, but most of those things exist in the world in a way that some college movie pranks really, really don’t. Most of these incidents, which are funny, usually feel like just slight exaggerations of what could happen rather than out-and-out “College is pranks!” fantasies.

The movie is packed pretty full with jokes. And the nice thing about this film is that there isn’t really much of a moral that undercuts the tone of the film. Sure, our heroes succeed in their plot (sort of) and are able to take life more seriously, but this is not hammered home nor does it add a serious ending to a movie that is pure silliness. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate it when comedies stay comedies right through the climax.

20+ years later, it’s also fun to spot all the people in this movie who went on to bigger things or at least have had consistent careers. So that’s an added benefit of watching it now.

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed it because of how dumb it is and because it doesn’t aspire to much.

6/10

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