[box cover]

Orange County

Despite the fact that an inordinate number of its scenes seem to feature Jack Black running around in his underwear, Orange County is actually a pretty tame movie. Marketed to the same audience that ate up both servings of American Pie, director Jake Kasdan's film is much more sincere — and much less raunchy — than its fellow teen comedies, which is both good and bad. Good, because it means Orange County is an engaging movie with some genuine laughs; bad, because it occasionally falls victim to its own over-earnestness, particularly at the end. Perhaps Kasdan, himself a second-generation Hollywood-ite, amped up the schmaltz because his star was Colin "Son of Tom" Hanks — no one wants to see Mr. Everyman Jr. violating pastry (at least, not in his first movie....) Hanks proves here that he doesn't need props of any variety to be a charming lead; he's accessible and appealing as Shaun Brumder, a high school surf-bum-turned-aspiring-writer who's pinned all his hopes on getting into Stanford. But thanks to his batty guidance counselor (Lily Tomlin), who sends in the wrong transcript, Shaun gets the thin envelope of rejection — and has to face the fact that instead of studying with his favorite novelist, he'll be stuck at home with his insecure, boozy mom (the always-funny Catherine O'Hara) and his manic slacker brother (Black, whose devious, goblin-like mugging gets a great workout). It would be enough to send anyone on a madcap spree to convince the dean (Harold Ramis) to give him another shot, right? Duh. Along for the ride are Shaun's cute-as-a-button girlfriend Ashley (Schuyler "Daughter of Sissy Spacek" Fisk) and a variety of other interesting characters, many of whom are played by famous funny folks like Garry Marshall, Chevy Chase, and Kevin Kline. As written by Mike White (Chuck and Buck), the movie is at its best when, a la films like Clueless, it's taking pot shots at Southern California stereotypes (Shaun's class on "Shakespeare" is a perfect example). It's much less effective when it veers into feel-good territory. But flaws and all, Orange County is entertaining, and it plays well on Paramount's DVD. The anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) is strong, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio shouldn't draw any complaints (other options include English and French Dolby 2.0 Surround tracks, plus English subtitles). The disc's chief extras are a set of four deleted scenes (which, for a change, are all worth watching) and a commentary track with Kasdan and White. The latter isn't likely to win the duo many fans; their slow, halting conversation is peppered with more "likes," "totallys," and "and stuffs" than the movie itself. The film's trailer and 15 brief MTV promo spots round out the list of special features. Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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