John Plummer (Jason Lee, doing his likable, average guy shtick) is in love with his long-time girlfriend, Elaine Warner (Leslie Mann). Together, they have saved $30,000 for a house that will, hopefully, solidify their “ideal” dream of contentment. Simple enough. But who cares about that? This movie is called Stealing Harvard, and most people just want to see Tom Green wear thick glasses and jump over bushes, or sit, baffled by the fact that he’s a multi-millionaire.
However, the first lemon twist of plot is Green-less and occurs in the first ten minutes, when we meet John’s trailer trash sister, Penny (Megan Mullally) and her daughter Nanzeen (Tammy Blanchard). A video clip from Nanzeen’s grade school days is played. It shows her crying in the halls because she didn’t know how to spell the word “tarp.” John, being the caring, wonderful uncle that he is, assures her that she is brilliant and promises to pay for her college education. Well, guess what? Good for you, and the price of tuition rings in at $29,879.
John suffers the predictable inner conflict. Should he shatter Elaine’s heart or Nanzeen and Penny’s? Of course, he’s chooses to compromise – the most difficult and comedic choice – by trying to obtain an additional $30,000. Cue in Duff (Tom Green).
Duff owns his own business called “Landscape Escape,” where he specializes in planting dead plants in wealthy people’s lawns, and then butchering their expensive shrubs – don’t ask – it’s Tom Green. Duff also makes some dough by running a beer buying service for minors. According to the trusty, cinematic, banana peel guidebook, this makes him the perfect source for advice on how to rack up thirty grand.
As soon as Tom Green enters the plot, it becomes very cliched and predictable. However, what else do you expect from this guy? Some fans may be disappointed, because this time, unlike last year’s cult-classic, Freddy Got Fingered, he doesn’t take the comedy overboard. His performance still manages to inject some life into the overall blandness, and the audience was practically rolling in the aisles during a few scenes.
Lee and Green take part in a number of charades to try and bag the additional $30,000. They come across an eclectic group of people that all offer their share of laughs. The movie has an average amount of reoccurring jokes and funny situations, and none of them rely on juvenile toilet humor. Well, just the ones about anal cleanings, cross dressing, and bestiality.
Any serious moment in the film is quickly relieved by another Tom Green dose of awkward hysteria. Jason Lee’s comic stability is the glue that holds everything together (Green just appears to get high of it). This lead role, even in such a minor film, proves that Lee is fit for the big leagues. Movies studios have already taken noticed. Next year, Lee has three credible films scheduled for release, including Stephen King’s buzz worthy Dreamcatcher and pal Kevin Smith’s Fletch Won and Jersey Girl.
Stealing Harvard is by no means a top-ten worthy movie. It’s a decent laugh if you have a couple bucks and an open evening to pre-game with friends beforehand (recommended). There’s little doubt that diehard Jason Lee and Tom Green fans have already taken part in such a ritual. For everyone else, expect a humorous rental from director Bruce McCulloch, of Kids in the Hall fame, that stars an actor who likes to wear gutted deer jackets.