Hey, everybody, it’s a Labor Day clearance sale! We gotta get rid of these leftover summer movies before the fall models come in! Quick, anybody in the market for a rip-off of “Superbad”? All it’s missing are the likable characters and the good performances! Oh, and the comedy. The comedy fell off in the warehouse. But hey, it’s got boobs! That’s worth something, right? Anyone? Hello?
You might guess that a film with the uninspired title of “College” would be lame and derivative, and you’d be right. This laugh-free debacle is the story of three high school seniors who visit a university for a “preview” weekend in the hopes of learning more about the campus, but mostly in the hopes of participating in the legendary college parties. The normal kid is Kevin (Drake Bell), whose girlfriend has just broken up with him. He has a fat, vulgar, slobby best friend named Carter (Andrew Caldwell), and the trio is completed by McLovin — I’m sorry, Morris (Kevin Covais), a nerdy, bespectacled wimp who looks about 14.
These three arrive at Fieldmont University (FU, get it?) to find that the dorm room they’d been scheduled to stay in is unavailable due to its occupant being a chronic masturbator. (The film makes this even less funny than it sounds.) So instead they try their chances at Beta Phi Tau, where the douchebag frat president (pardon the redundancy), Teague (Nick Zano), agrees to let them stay in the basement for the weekend. His motivation for this is that he and his buddies want to torment them. The kids are willing to endure it because it means they can go to frat parties and scam on hot college chicks.
Each of the boys meets a girl who likes him; Kevin has the misfortune of choosing Kendall (Haley Bennett), whom Teague slept with weeks ago and still wants to claim as his own. Thus Teague’s initial interest in harassing the minors is increased tenfold, lest he be outmanned by some boring high schooler.
What follows is a predictably raunchy series of shenanigans, abuse, cruel tricks, bawdy hijinks, and tomfoolery involving alcohol, marijuana, and nitrous oxide. Bodily functions and fluids are amply represented. Immature homoeroticism is the order of the day — remember, gay dudes are gross; two chicks making out is hot — and at one point Teague misdirects Kevin, Carter, and Morris to a gay frat party, which they flee in terror. Returning to the Beta Phi house, they are forced to drink body shots from the hairy, naked body of dimwitted Bearcat (Gary Owen). The irony of all this — “Queers are gross! Now let’s all get naked and touch each other!” — is lost on everyone, just as it usually is on real-life frat boys.
First-time director Deb Hagan (working from a script by first-timers Dan Callahan and Adam Ellison) manages to capture the bacchanalian spirit of college parties, or at least the way they’re portrayed in movies. Yet she manages to miss every available opportunity to create comedy. I see plenty of raucous behavior; what I don’t see are places where I’m supposed to laugh. Apart from the occasional amusing non sequitur, I don’t hear funny dialogue. For a film that’s supposed to be “outrageous,” this one is lifeless and flat. Drake Bell is bland; “American Idol” castoff Kevin Covais is forgettable; and Andrew Caldwell, playing The Fat Guy, is vigorously, abrasively unfunny.
The film is shameless in its copying of “Superbad,” not just in the three friends’ physical characteristics and personalities, but in many of the plot devices. They even get fake IDs, for crying out loud. How do you do this? Do you have the characters acknowledge that their situation is similar to the one in “Superbad”? Do you have one of them make a subtle reference to it, a wink to the audience? Nope: “College” handles the scene with a straight face, hoping we won’t realize what a hollow rip-off it is. The copying wouldn’t be an issue if “College” were funny on its own, but it’s not. Just in case I failed to make that clear already.
D- (1 hr., 35 min.; )