“College” aspires to be “Superbad,” and it succeeds, though not in the way the makers intended: it can’t claim the title, but the adjective certainly applies. To be fair, the opening credit sequence is actually pretty clever. But it’s all downhill from there, ending with one of the lamest collections of bloopers ever tossed together for final crawls. From its ultra-generic title on, this movie flunks big time.
It’s about three high school seniors who go on a pre-frosh visit to a college campus and fall in with some nasty frat guys and some nice sorority sisters, and represents the sort of crass, witless, “Porky’s”-style exercise that makes even the worst product of the Judd Apatow factory look like a comic masterpiece. The trio consists of Kevin (Drake Bell), the white-bread nice guy who will be tempted to loosen up after being dumped by his long-time girlfriend; Morris (Kevin Corvais), the nervous, intellectual geek being prodded by his parents to score a scholarship in an on-campus interview; and Carter (Andrew Caldwell), the fat, stupid, loudmouth slob you’re supposed to find funny and lovable but are more likely to want to see run over by a bus.
The guys have been assigned to stay in a dorm during their visit, but when their “host” turns out to be a guy who seems to be monopolizing the room by gratifying himself to porn tapes twenty-four hours a day, they gravitate to a frat house run by a bunch of mean-spirited jerks led by the sleazy Teague (Nick Zano) and his lieutenant, hirsute bully Bearcat (Gary Owen). They and their frat brothers repeatedly humiliate the boys, especially after Kevin strikes up a friendship with lovely Kendall (Haley Bennett), who’s been declining Teague’s eminently resistible advances. Eventually Kevin, Morris and Carter turn the tables on their tormentors, but only after their friendship has been tested. And Kevin of course, learns to be true to himself when Kendall catches him in a lie that threatens their budding romance.
Like almost all examples of this genre, the picture is meant to be simultaneously gross, to generate winces, and sweet, to elicit smiles. It succeeds only in the first purpose. The emphasis is on the boys’ horniness, which leads to all sorts of sexual gags, and there’s plenty of vulgarity and nastiness in the way they’re treated by Teague and his cohorts (as well as in our heroes’ revenge), and it’s pretty repulsive. (There are certainly enough scenes involving excrement, both human and animal, and shots of toilets to make you keenly aware of where the movie should wind up.) The strong strain of homophobia that’s seemingly obligatory in this kind of thing is crude and ugly, too. But the buddy stuff, and the romantic angle, never generate the likable quality that’s intended to balance the raunchiness. The supposed camaraderie among the trio is flat, mostly consisting of Carter bullying Morris while Kevin looks on indulgently, and the guys’ introductions to the pleasures of female companionship, shall we say, are generally crude, lacking any charm even on the rare occasions when they try for it. There’s also a particularly cheap plot thread involving Morris and the college dean (Wallace Merck) that’s not only coarse but goes curiously unresolved in the end.
“College” marks another try by Bell to segue from Nickelodeon to the big screen, but like “Super Hero Movie,” it does not bode well for his chances, although he seems an affable enough fellow. Covais makes a pallid substitute for Michael Cera, and Caldwell a singularly irritating one for Jonah Hill (who’s already pretty irritating to begin with). As for Zano, he’s certainly convincing as a scabrous lout, as is Owen as a loathsome thug. For some reason Verne Troyer makes an appearance as a guest at one of the frat’s parties; you want to squash him. And technically the picture is bland.
Toward the close of the movie, one of the boys says disgustedly after their final—and greatest—humiliation (involving a pig farm, no less), “College blows.” Put the first word in italics and you’ve got it just about right.