Harvard Man


Director: James Toback

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

This light comedy in celebration of doing drugs at Harvard & cheating at sports is morally reprehensible, cheerful, & lighthearted, but even with all that going for it it is only at long intervals a little bit funny.

Adrian Grenier is the Harvard basketball star who commits a felony in exchange for a hundred thousand dollars & never gets his comuppance. He happily throws the game for the mob, then when it looks like the Keystone FBI is going to catch him & throw him in jail unless he rats on a mob boss, the Harvard man with a little help from friends successfully blackmails the FBI into submission. Like that'd happen.

Although there's no way on earth this little squirt of an actor was good casting as a basketball star (he'd be the shortest whitest basketball star on earth), the one thing you can say for Grenier's performance is that he was a hoot during the long stretch of film when he was on LSD. It is nothing like a real acid trip, it's just endless slapstick, & if it has ever annoyed you that films like Traffic & Trainspotting insist that being a druggy will screw up your life & the lives of everyone around you, well then, Harvard Man is the cure for your annoyance.

Joey Lauren Adams plays the plucky girl professor who fucks her students, in particular our magical tiny basketball star who never needs to practice to keep in top form. Adams has Jennifer Tilly's voice & she's almost as cute & chubby as Jennifer Tilly, so I liked every minute of the film that had her on screen. She was by far the film's best actor & made her character come to life even though nothing about how the character was written was even slightly probable & if she was a Harvard professor then my pet rat is Elvis. It's one of the hallmarks of good acting to make the impossible seem real, though it's too bad the role wasn't actually written well.

Sarah Michelle "Buffy" Gellar can't act & has terrible comic timing & the inferiority of the script is heightened by her performance. Every time she's on screen, the film comes to a screeching halt. She's the villain, for it turns out it's not the mob boss but his daughter who arranged for the basketball star to fix the game. Since no one has an ounce of morality in this film, I'm glad Geller's character didn't have to get her comeuppance either, but got to keep her ill-gained million dollars, since the "good" people are at least as corrupt as the designated villain. But one can nevertheless wish an actor more capable had played her skanky role.

Several other actors get opportunities to try to be funny, & though they are not actually untalented like Geller, most of them fall flat in this film. In particular Eric Stoltz & Rebecca Gayheart, as the easily outwitted crimefighters, seem merely bewildered & ready to fire their agents for signing them onto this embarrassment.

Political comedian Al "Rush is Fat" Franken has a cameo performance seemingly written for him that day, if not made up as he went along. He encounters our hallucinating hero on campus & they try to have a funny scene together. It should've been left on the cutting room floor, though if all the failed material were left on the cutting room floor, there'd be only a short subject remaining.

I have a great capacity for enjoying terrible movies & I enjoyed this more than it deserves, solely because of Joey Lauren Adams, who has certainly had better roles but has rarely been more charming & sexy.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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