Shaun Brumder is a local surfer kid from Orange County who dreams of going to Stanford to become a writer and to get away from his disfunctional family household. Except Shaun runs into one complication after another starting when his application is rejected after his dim-witted guidance counselor sends the wrong application. So, Shaun goes to great lengths with a little help from his girlfriend Ashley and his drugged-out loser brother Lance to get into Stanford any way they see fit.Written by
Charming and unconventional - sort of like "orange" itself
Shaun Brumder (Colin Hanks) is an abnormally bright child. A kid whose schoolwork comes naturally to him and grades were never something to sweat over. But instead of trying to lead an ambitious life, Shaun chooses to spend his days surfing and hanging out with his pals. But when his best friend Lonny is killed in a surfing accident, Shaun contemplates if this direction is the best one to pursue. He later discovers a novel, written by a man named Marcus Skinner, on the beach one day, reads it cover to cover, and loves every minute of it. Upon reading it a dozen more times, and practicing writing similar stories on his own, he realizes that he has a talent for writing and ultimately that's what he wants to become.
Shaun's homelife is a rather strange one. His parents are divorced, with his mother (Catherine O'Hara) being a sensitive, needy woman and his father (John Lithgow) a selfish and unruly cad. Shaun's brother is Lance (Jack Black), a portly stoner who is rarely seen fully clothed. Lance continues to offer advice to Shaun, which he will inherently disregard as rambling with no meaning, yet this isn't one of those stories where the dopey character may actually be smarter than we believe. He's just dumb.
Our hero's dream, however, is to get accepted to Stanford and major in journalism. His girlfriend, the neighborhood activist Ashley (Schuyler Fisk) is all support, but his chances seemingly plummet downward when his guidance counselor sends the wrong transcript to Stanford. Instead of the bright and dedicated student they should receive, the school accepts some ne'er-do-well stoner who applied on a whim.
Orange County follows Shaun as he tries in every which way to get accepted to Stanford and pursue a life of intellect and creativity. One thing that becomes the top priority on his list is escaping the inherently listless and seemingly mundane town of Orange County, where nobody takes anything with an ounce of seriousness and everyone seems to be self-indulgent and careless.
This is a film with a big agenda, a clear heart, but an often misunderstood soul, mainly because its headliner, Jack Black, doesn't deliver the laughs you would expect. Orange County is not an energetic, high-octane romp, but a sweet and endearing character study that is equal parts sly comedy and equal parts dramatic and deep. A scene comes early on in the film where Shaun is wasting away in a class and his teacher is asking the students if they know anyone who would be interested in speaking to the school about personal experiences. Shaun proposes a writer who has just received a high honor, but is quickly one-upped by another classmate who has connections to Brittney Spears. This scene illustrates so discretely and subtly how motivated and turned on we get as a society by popularity and publicity rather than true talent and admiration.
Colin Hanks, an actor still searching for that breakout role, handles the task here beautifully, even with the challenge and notable burden of carrying a lion's weight of a film on his back. He's no idiot. His character rarely misses a beat and is a calming and simple pleasure to endure. So is his brother, despite his slow, uninspiring persona. Orange County has an indescribable beauty and charm to its screenplay, one that offers an experience that is fresh and viable, and definitely unconventional.
Starring: Colin Hanks, Jack Black, Schuyler Fisk, Catherine O'Hara, John Lithgow, and Lily Tomlin. Directed by: Jake Kasdan.
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