If someone was going to accept the premise of Accepted, it would have to be me. A bunch of kids have the noble idea of learning in college through an alternative curriculum, i.e. taking “classes” on watching girls, skateboarding, and sculpting exaggerated penises from wood. Now, I went to and graduated from what I affectionately call a Goddamn Hippie School™. All these years later, I’m still asked by relatives and acquaintances if my college was accredited or even “real”. So what if I seriously thought about staying another year to take a year-long Star Trek-themed course (awesome!)? And yes, I DID make a basket (under water), which cannot be underrated (it’s hard!). But, unlike the kids in Accepted, we had to WORK to earn our degree.
The hero of our story is Bartelby (Justin Long), a seemingly clever and amiable guy that can’t even get into his “fallback” colleges upon high school graduation. Desperate to please (and fool) his angry and disappointed parents, he photoshops some logos, makes some letterhead, and with the help of pals, creates a website of the one school that will accept him: South Harmon Institute of Technology (S.H.I.T… Har har har! Oh.) He waves his acceptance letter to his parents, shows them the website of the made-up school, and his dad goes, “Congratulations, son!” and writes out a check for $10,000. If only all students had it so easy!
Bartelby and his pack of slacker friends rent out an abandoned mental hospital and fix it up when B’s parents offer to drop him off at school. It is conveniently located next to its “sister school”, the real Harmon College, so everyone is totally fooled, you see? And to the kids’ surprise, suddenly hundreds of other slackers show up on the first day, waving those seemingly easy-to-be-found $10,000 checks, ready to start school. (That’s what happens when you forget to take down your school’s website with the Apply Now button.)
The premise of Accepted is kind of fun and should be ripe for comedy. All the people at the school were rejected everywhere else (awwwww…) so Bartleby doesn’t have the heart to turn them away. With a do-it-yourself curriculum, they all seem to keep themselves busy (I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen when winter came, and Sunbathing 101 would have to go indoors). And the only reason their fraud is discovered is when some screaming frat boys from the real college bust them when they throw a better party in the ‘hood.
For all of its feel-good message (and way-unrealistic premise in many ways), Accepted goes in one ear (eye?) and out the other. There are some chuckles in the movie, but no downright guffaws. The characters seem recycled from 80s teen movies, and it seems like it should be more daring than it is (perhaps because it sticks to a PG-13 rating?). Once its premise is set up, it just kind of chugs along with no real purpose, making the audience just wait for it all fall apart. It is one of those movies that struggles to maintain your interest for a feature length, and still it barely manages to clock exactly at 90 minutes, including credits (whew!). Speaking of credits, how many credits to I get for sitting through this movie?