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  How I Got Into College My Learned Friend
Year: 1989
Director: Savage Steve Holland
Stars: Anthony Edwards, Corey Parker, Lara Flynn Boyle, Finn Carter, Charles Rocket, Christopher Rydell, Brian Doyle-Murray, Tichina Arnold, Bill Raymond, Philip Baker Hall, Micole Mercurio, Robert Ridgely, Richard Jenkins, Nora Dunn, Phil Hartman, O-Lan Jones
Genre: Comedy, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Two marathon runners, A and B, are travelling the last hundred yards to the finish line each at their own constant rate so... so what is student Marlon Browne (Corey Parker) supposed to do with them now? It's a test and he has never been good at those, especially with the pressure to succeed he is under, but he feels he has to do well, not only for his academic career but also to ensure he attends the same college as the girl he has admired from afar all this time, Jessica Kailo (Lara Flynn Boyle). She is one of the brightest pupils, a cheerleader who is trying to be elected her school year's president, but Marlon has never even plucked up the courage to speak to her, so does she even know he exists?

How I Got Into College was Savage Steve Holland's last movie as director... for a while anyway, as he was gathered up by television and applied his particular sensibility to a raft of shows for kids and teens. But there was always that fanbase who appreciated the three films he directed back in the nineteen-eighties, the decade the teen movie really took off and you could argue was never the same again once the nineties dawned, who hoped Holland would return to the big screen and conjure up something that lived up to the promise of Better Off Dead, One Crazy Summer and this effort. The only reason he helmed this was because he was a hasty replacement for the previous director who had been sacked.

So you might have thought as a job for hire he might not have been able to slip his own wacky, lightheartedly subversive persona onto the material, but actually that wasn't true as the same plethora of sight gags, as if he was making a living cartoon, littered the screen in what amounted to a swan song from the eighties genre which had made stars of actors and directors alike. There was no John Cusack this time around, his place in the Holland everykid role was taken by Corey Parker, whose celebrity wattage was considerably dimmer, though if more people had seen how bright he was here he might have gone on to a bigger following, or at least more impressive chances in comedy movies at which he proved himself more than adept here.

At its heart this played out as a hapless boy chases unattainable girl yarn where it turns out to nobody's surprise that girl is not half as unattainable as the kid thought she was, the sort of romance which appeals to a certain type of intelligent if underconfident hopeful that Holland appeared to be aiming each of his trilogy at. But it wasn't all meaningful gazes and deep sighs, as there were the laughs to be getting to, and the setting was the college selection process in the United States educational system, an obvious laughter factory, right? It could have been the none too plain possibilities for humour that title brought up that had audiences staying away, and this remains one of the lesser known eighties teen comedies perhaps thanks to potential punters thinking this was some sort of self-help guide, or at least as dry as one.

But if the jokes were not all fall down hilarious, there was a sense of goodnatured chuckles which carried the plot through the business of keeping the narrative points popping up to hop from A to B. One aspect that contributed to that pleasant air was the way Terrel Seltzer's script (presumably with strong Holland input) gave every one of a fine cast, even down to the one scene wonders, a quirk or trait that lent them a personailty we could latch onto within seconds, whether it be Marlon's lovesickness and underachieving or Jessica's overconfidence which winds up as a handicap, down to the smaller supporting roles, with O-Lan Jones as a college secretary who seems to be phoning her dog, or Tichina Arnold as a hopeful who is patently too smart to be living the life of mediocrity society would force on her. That's an important theme, giving people a chance, that runs through the admissions process we see, as Anthony Edwards leads the drive to recruit interesting and promising students, not coincidentally humanising the staff as well. Music by Joseph Vitarelli.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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