The Skulls tells the story of Luke, a young man accepted to Yale University on a scholarship. Once there, he gains admission into the Skulls, an elite "club" of sorts that brings Luke everything he could ever want: fast cars, women, and all the money he can spend. Luke soon discovers, however, that maybe all these perks have a price.
Starring Joshua Jackson (Dawson's Creek) as Luke, The Skulls was quickly dismissed by critics as just another run-of-the-mill teen flick. While it's obviously been created as a vehicle to cash in on Jackson's popularity, the film aspires to be something more than just another adolescent thriller. Of course, many of the elements in the movie contradict that statement, what with the casting of the beautifully vapid Leslie Bibb (television's Popular) as Jackson's love interest, but Rob Cohen, the director, is the same man behind such films as Daylight and Dragonheart. He brings a real sense of excitement to what could have otherwise be a dull and drab affair, reminiscent of past thrillers rather than just another teenybopper vehicle.
It helps that he's picked an excellent supporting cast, headlined by one of the great unknown character actors of his generation, Christopher MacDonald. MacDonald has appeared in a myriad of films, including The Rich Man's Wife and Flubber, but younger viewers probably remember him as Shooter MacGavin in Happy Gilmore. This is a guy who always brings a sense of realism to his roles (or incredibly over-the-top characters, as in Happy Gilmore), and is never boring to watch. He's got a small part here as a hitman, but he makes the most of it. Also on hand are the equally reliable Craig T. Nelson (TV's Coach) and William Peterson (To Live and Die in L.A.) as the head of the Skulls and a sympathetic senator, respectively.
The "goofy plot" (as most critics called it) isn't that goofy. It seemed to be entirely plausible, though the execution was somewhat trite and predictable. This is one of those movies where you tend to roll your eyes every few minutes or so at some idiotic action by a character, but nevertheless, it is entertaining. In order to find it entertaining, though, there's one proviso: check your brain at the door. Don't sit down to watch this movie expecting a complicated thriller, a la The Conversation. Similarly, don't expect a brilliantly acted mood piece (it's got Pacey in it, for crying out loud!). But do expect a tremendously entertaining, above-average teen thriller.
And in this day and age when these types of films are a dime a dozen, catching one that's actually well-made is a rare thing.