For all the eager fans who can't bear to wait for the release of Jackass: The Movie (and yes, that really is coming down the pike), idiots everywhere can rejoice in the numskull glow of the Tom Green spectacle, Stealing Harvard. While MTV is entirely to blame for the former, we can only hold the vacuous network partially responsible for the latter; MTV had nothing to do with the production, creation, or distribution of Harvard, but it did give Tom Green a career and that, in and of itself, is an act which should not go unpunished.
So if MTV isn't the culprit here, who is? Blame could be placed on any number of shoulders: director Bruce McCulloch could be held responsible since, well, he is the director; screenwriter Peter Tolan could be targeted for penning such an abysmally unfunny and idiotic script; or star Jason Lee could shoulder some of the backlash for his wooden performance (whether he is, in fact, reading all his lines off a teleprompter remains to be seen). But even with all of these possible scapegoats, no one can really lay claim to this film more than Tom Green. Seemingly a vehicle to showcase the Canadian's inane ramblings, Stealing Harvard is a smorgasbord of soliloquies about nothing delivered by the former Mr. Drew Barrymore.
Green, who gained notoriety for the bizarre brand of gonzo humor he displayed on his self titled MTV show, is known for being a prankster quick to inspire laughter as easily as disgust. Green has always traded on his bad taste and willingness to cross any line for a joke-popular segments on his show involved numerous cruelties executed at the expense of his friends and family. (In one now-infamous stunt, the shock comic posted his best friend's phone number in a digital billboard over Times Square.) But, if anything, the one thing that made The Tom Green Show fun, and funny, was it's public access, Wayne's World feel. Supposedly discovered on Canadian public access, Green's most successful sketches involved him interacting with strangers, or giving his soft-spoken parents, or best friend, a hard time. A strange blend of Andy Kaufman and candid camera, Green's formula was a limited one that revolved around staged stunts with the right foil. In other words, what was good about Tom Green, and what made his act funny, was precisely the fact that he wasn't a celebrity.
The post Tom Green Show Green, the man who's been given feature film roles and even feature films (writing and directing Freddy Got Fingered), is a much more grating incarnation of the troublemaking man-on-the-street we saw on MTV. In Stealing Harvard Green proves just how ingratiating he can be. As Duff, the white trash, beer-drinking, idiotic best friend to Jason Lee's average Joe hero, Green peers awkwardly through Stephen King-like spectacles as he spouts gibberish in time which is always seconds off its intended mark. Inspiring a desperate feeling of discomfort, the only joke Green seems to be playing is one on us, one in which he reiterates, with every line he utters, just how ungifted a comedian he is.
Aside from its canned plot about a do-gooder (Lee, proving he can only play self-absorbed, fast-talking Kevin Smith alter-egos) who turns to a haphazard life of crime to win his niece the tuition she needs to attend Harvard, Stealing Harvard thrusts much of its comedic hopes on Green's inadequate shoulders. If anything positive is to emerge from the ashes here, it will be the death toll of Tom Green's tenure in Hollywood.
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