Student Life Archives (2001-2008)

The amorphous genre of the college movie

Margaret Bauer

Thanks to John Hughes, the teen movie has been a Hollywood staple for the past two decades. The high school movie caters to all groups, be they sleek and chic or freaks and geeks. Hollywood seems to have whittled the teen movie down to methodical plot twists revolving around pivotal sporting events or parties to be remembered for all eternity. A new challenge lies in the next chapter: the college movie. Every high schooler suffers through similar classes and the same lame dances. College students, however, make the experience their own, making it difficult for Hollywood to pin down a universal emotion and experience. Whether or not they succeed in such a feat, here are some movies that comically define college life from the visiting high school senior to the returning super seniors that refuse to leave.

PCU (1994)
Directed by: Hart Bochner
Starring: Jeremy Piven, Jon Favreau, David Spade

Tom is a “pre-frosh” visiting Port Chester University, a campus defined by extreme Political Correctness. An admissions mistake pairs the na‹ve prospective student with Droz (Piven), a seven-year senior and leading member of The Pit, a co-ed fraternity house boasting general laziness and lack of concern for the PC ideals of the university. Through the work of preppy brown-nosing frat boy Rand McPherson (Spade), the members of The Pit must raise an exorbitant amount of money in order to remain students at PCU. The Pit meets the challenge by throwing a ragin’ kegger that attracts all of the begrudged students, from the peace-loving vegetarians to the man-hating “womynists,” through a series of clumsy offenses made by the unsuspecting Tom.

Real Genius (1985)
Directed by: Martha Coolidge
Starring: Val Kilmer, John Gries, William Atherton

Nerds are people, too! In “Real Genius,” they even seem fun and quirky. Mitch Taylor is a physicist extraordinaire, admitted as a young teen to a top technical school in order to work under the acclaimed Professor Jerry Hathaway (Atherton) on a top-secret project. The young Taylor faces the difficult transition from home life to dorm life with his wacky and brilliant roommate and mentor, Chris Knight (Kilmer). Together, the two undergo numerous adventures, including a waged war against the scheming brace-faced, dickie-wearing Clark in addition to befriending of the reclusive Lazlo Hollyfeld, a genius turned crazy after he found out the practical applications of his tremendous scientific discoveries. Far more entertaining and lovable than “Revenge of the Nerds,” this movie deserves great bad movie status.

Kicking and Screaming (1995)
Directed by: Noah Baumbach
Starring: Josh Hamilton, Olivia d’Abo, Eric Stoltz, Chris Eigeman

Meet Grover, Otis, Max and Skippy, four inseparable friends facing the fearful step from beneath the warm blanket of a college education to the cold world of work and monotonous living. Rather than growing up and moving on, the friends find an apartment and mope around campus, scamming on youthful freshmen and even feisty high schoolers. The movie unfolds through humorous dialogue and pseudo-intellectual insights on Aristotle and Plato made by the indefinite college student, Chet the bartender. All the characters fear the monotony of life after college, all the while finding themselves in a repetitive cycle of crossword puzzles, trivia games and chain smoking. This movie makes you miss college before you ever leave it.

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