Two Comedies from Universal
Accepted (May 6/07)
Sporadically entertaining but relentlessly lightweight, Accepted casts Justin Long as Bartleby Gaines - a personable high schooler who finds himself in something of a pickle after he's rejected by seven post-secondary institutions. Along with his friends (including Jonah Hill's Sherman and Columbus Shorts' Hands), Bartleby comes up with a plan to placate his parents by essentially inventing a college - though problems emerge once hundreds of other rejected teens start flocking to the school. There's certainly plenty to like within Accepted; director Steve Pink has infused the proceedings with a poppy, fast-paced vibe, while Long effortlessly steps into the shoes of an affable everyman (it's Hill who proves to be the film's secret weapon, however). But there comes a point at which the film's aimlessness becomes far more evident than one would like, as Pink - working from Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, and Mark Perez's screenplay - places the emphasis on the plotless exploits of the various characters (and while some of this stuff is admittedly quite funny, the majority of it is just irredeemably silly). The inclusion of an incongruously dramatic finale leaves Accepted with an awfully sour aftertaste, and there's no denying that the film's positives are ultimately obscured by its more negative attributes.
Let's Go to Prison (May 12/07)
While there's little doubt that Let's Go to Prison has its share of effective moments - most of which come courtesy of star Will Arnett - the film's flawed premise and underlying vibe of weirdness ultimately prevents it from becoming anything more than a sporadically amusing time-waster. Dax Shepard stars as John Lyshitski, a career criminal who decides to get revenge on a mean-spirited judge by ensuring that his son (Arnett's Nelson Biederman IV) is sent to a maximum security jail. After securing his own sentence at the same prison, John becomes Nelson's cellmate and subsequently does everything in his power to see that Nelson's stay remains a brutal one. But because Nelson never quite becomes the intensely unlikable character that one imagines he's supposed to be, it becomes increasingly difficult to root for John's mean-spirited and downright cruel shenanigans (this is, after all, a film that plays Nelson's impending rape for laughs). Arnett's expectedly hilarious performance goes a long way towards keeping things interesting, while director Bob Odenkirk has effectively peppered the supporting cast with a whole host of familiar faces (including Dylan Baker, David Koechner, and Chi McBride). That Let's Go to Prison remains fairly entertaining throughout is clearly due in no small part to their efforts, and it's hard to entirely dismiss any film that features a character singing along (quite badly, no less) to Technotronic's "Move This."