MOVIE REVIEW- School daze: 'Animal House' meets 'Old School'

At the end of Accepted– while I was wondering what the Dept. of Veterans Affairs had done to rate an acknowledgement– the critic next to me proclaimed, "I could feel the world getting dumber each time someone laughed at this movie." If, like him, you think that's a bad thing, I suggest you see something else. To you and my fellow critic I say, "Lighten up, dude."

Accepted, though a bit lower down the inspiration scale, is Animal House without those pesky classes. It's Old School with the guys inventing a whole college instead of just a fraternity. It's a voice crying in the wilderness for free-form education that turns out creative people instead of money-grubbing robots. Of course, if it weren't for money-grubbing robots you wouldn't be able to see Accepted at your local multiplex.

Justin Long (Jeepers Creepers) stars as Bartleby Gaines, a young scam artist whose eighth college rejection letter comes from Ohio State, his fallback. "He's thrown his life away," his dad moans.

So Bartleby makes up a college and has his best friend, Schrader (Jonah Hill), build a website for it. Schrader's going to Harmon College, so Bartleby accepts himself into South Harmon Institute of Technology. Yes, you read the acronym right.

When the folks want to visit the campus, Bartleby uses his tuition money to lease an old psychiatric hospital. He, Schrader, Hands (Columbus Short), Rory (Maria Thayer), and Glen (John Belushi/Jack Black wannabe Adam Herschman) clean it up and make it look like a campus and hire Schrader's uncle (Lewis Black), a defrocked academic, to pose as the dean.

Because Schrader made the mistake of making the website functional, they soon find themselves with "upwards of 300 students," or "SH*Theads," as they're affectionately known. Bartleby lets them design and implement their own curriculum, so Skateboarding, Slacking and Doing Nothing are popular courses.

The real Harmon represents everything that's wrong with higher education, if you buy the movie's premise, from fraternity hazing to structure. Anthony Heald plays Dean Richard Van Horne, Accepted's version of Dean Wormer, whose mission in life is to take no S.H.*T.

Monica (Blake Lively), on whom Bartleby has had a crush at least since seventh grade, is going to Harmon and dating the president of the fraternity Schrader is pledging. We know that will change before this fantasy is over.

The SH*Theads are a diverse bunch, including one guy whose ambition is to "blow sh*t up with my mind"; and Robin Lord Taylor as A.D.D.– his initials and his affliction.

One of the best performances comes from Hannah Marks as Lizzie, Bartleby's wise-beyond-her-years little sister. She wants a false ID, not so she can drink but so she can vote.

Bartleby is occasionally portrayed as a klutz– when it's deemed necessary to get cheap laughs with physical shtick. Much of the verbal humor is crude and sexual. Accepted is a lightweight confection for the hot weather months. Anyone who could assign any serious significance to it must be a graduate of South Harmon Institute of Technology. As Monica says when Bartleby shows her the clap-on disco ball in his room, "This is so cheesy– in the greatest way!"

As for movies like Accepted being a cause or symptom of the dumbing-down of the world, I'm not worried, as long as we have someone intelligent to lead our country and, by extension, the free world. (Oh, is he still President?) Never mind. Accepted is rejected.