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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 11, 2002

Movie Scene
'Orange County' rotten despite veterans, talented newcomers

By Forrest Hartman
Reno (Nev.) Gazette-Journal

ORANGE COUNTY (Rated PG-13 for violence, sexual content, profanity and drug references) Two Stars (Fair)

Typical teen comedy featuring an atypical cast. Tom Hanks' son, Colin, and Sissy Spacek's daughter, Schuyler Fisk, star alongside Hollywood giants like Kevin Kline. Director Lawrence Kasdan's son, Jake, directs. Hanks plays a high school student trying desperately to get into Stanford University despite receiving a rejection letter. Paramount, 100 mins.

I don't think Hollywood ever has conducted a torch-passing ceremony quite like the one we see in "Orange County." On the surface, the movie is a rather typical teen comedy, but the casting and crew demand notice.

The film was directed by Jake Kasdan, son of Lawrence Kasdan — director of "Body Heat," and "The Big Chill" among others — and the leads are played by Colin Hanks and Schuyler Fisk, the son of Tom Hanks and the daughter of Sissy Spacek, respectively.

A host of established Hollywood bigwigs, including Catherine O'Hara, John Lithgow, Lily Tomlin, Harold Ramis and Kevin Kline, join them in supporting roles, as if to say, "We're passing the reins." And, just to prove the film is hip, the very funny Jack Black is tossed into the mix.

Unfortunately, the players are the only things setting "Orange County" apart. In the end, it's an average teen comedy in the vein of "Risky Business" and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," but minus the spark that made them genre classics. "Orange County" is good enough to serve as a guilty-pleasure, and it probably will put smiles on the faces of younger viewers, but it never rises above a B level.

The film introduces Shaun Brumder (Hanks), an Orange County, Calif., high school student whose life changes when he discovers a Marcus Skinner novel. After reading and rereading it, he decides to become a writer, but he isn't accepted at Stanford University, where Skinner (Kline) teaches.

Dejected, he sets off on an odyssey to get into the school anyway. Along the way, he receives "help" from his neurotic mother (O'Hara), drug-dealing brother (Black), self-obsessed father (Lithgow) and environmentalist girlfriend (Fisk).

"Orange County" is to be complimented for supplementing the sex and drug jokes that dominate teen movies with more thoughtful fare — such as family dynamics and the importance of remaining true to oneself — but melodramatic delivery undermines many of the scenes.

Kasdan's inexperience as a director shows in a number of gags that fail to materialize, and the same can be said for the newcomers in the cast.

Hanks is likable — even charming — as Shaun, but don't expect one of his dad's Oscar-caliber outings. If you want to relate the careers of the two Hanks men, "Orange County" is more akin to "Bachelor Party" than "Saving Private Ryan." The younger Hanks is adept at conveying emotion and making the audience like him, but his portrayal of Shaun is more caricature than character.

Fisk is likable, but the script doesn't give her room to stretch, and she offers a cookie-cutter performance. The veterans in the cast are competent, but their efforts here are mere footnotes.

Black ("Shallow Hal"), on the other hand, is consistently hilarious as Shaun's off-kilter brother. His over-the-top performance makes you both admire his talent and question his career choices. There's no doubt he's one of the funniest actors working today, which makes it difficult to watch him squander his abilities on mediocre fare.

In the end, "Orange County" is a likable curiosity, but never more. If it's remembered at all, it will be as the starting point for a new generation of Hollywood stars.

Rated PG-13 for violence, sexual content, profanity and drug references.