John (Lee) and Duff (Green) are best buds who undertake an effort to steal $30,000 for John's niece, whose college career he once made a glib promise to finance. When she gets accepted to Harvard and comes looking for Uncle John to pay up, chicanery ensues as Duff leads John through one ridiculous stunt, plot, scheme and pratfall after another to get the money. There are a host of characters even sillier than the stars, but instead of building to a laugh riot we are left with a handful of disparate funny moments of no real consequence. The film isn't as bad as most critics (particularly those of Mr. Green) might have you believe. There are things to laugh at here. But does one really want to sit through the less humorous, even painful, material to get to those few nuggets? Only the most stalwart fans of those universal "maybes" even need to think about it. And they ought to think twice. Starring Jason Lee, Tom Green, Leslie Mann, Dennis Farina, Megan Mullally and Bruce McCulloch. Directed by Bruce McCulloch. Written by Martin Hynes and Peter Tolan. Produced by Susan Cavan. A Columbia release. Comedy. Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, language and drug references. Running time: 83 min
There are things in the universe that one finds themselves hoping or at least wanting to like. Sometimes these things are people who, for whatever reason, have captivated the public interest. Other times they are concepts that seem ripe for enjoyment. "Stealing Harvard" contains several of these elements. The concept seems funny, and then there are the people, including Tom Green ("Freddy Got Fingered"), an utterly unacceptable human being who has proven himself wholly worthy of the contempt he so blatantly seeks. Two other seemingly likable personalities are director/co-star Bruce McCulloch ("Brain Candy"), formerly of the Canadian comedy troupe "Kids in the Hall," who seems funnier than he ever really is, and Jason Lee ("Chasing Amy," "Vanilla Sky"), an affable and charming actor who really ought to be a movie star by now, but isn't. The confluence of these elements seems as though they'd add up to something at least funny, but oddly, they don't.