Can you imagine a dull comedy staring Tom Green? Unfortunately Stealing Harvard is that movie. I've been a fan of Tom Green's work for quite a while now; he's one of those comedians who isn't afraid to constantly push the edge of 'taste' and 'sanity'. His humor is much like an evening of Saturday Night Live - when it's 'on' it's brilliant, when it's 'off' it's painful. Like a home run hitter Tom Green constantly swings big without concern if the effect is him missing wildly. Hit or miss Green has always been a spectical to watch, and that's why its utterly frustrating to see him in a role so muted and so restrained that it's neither funny or awful, just plain dull.
Dull is probably the best way to describe Stealing Harvard as a whole. It's not that it's an unbearably bad film, it's just that it's a comedy with very few good laughs, and a throwaway story. Jason Lee, well known for his work in many Kevin Smith films, makes a valiant attempt to lead a film about a guy who makes a childhood promise to his niece to pay for her college education. All grown up, she somehow gets into Harvard, leaving him to find a way to make good on his promise.
It's a pretty simple plot that is driven more by poorly drawn cartoony characters than anything else. Even though she's the driving force for the movie, we never really get to know much about the niece and exactly how she got into Harvard or that it really means much to her. But getting to know, or even liking the characters seems unimportant to the film which seems more interested in getting them into wacky situations than defining them.
One of the things I found quite annoying about Stealing Harvard is that it's clearly from the school of "If the first time we do something is slightly funny, then the second must be funnier, and the third hilarious." Unfortuantely this results in seeing the same gag over and over and over, something that just doesn't work in an eighty-something minute film.
Stealing Harvard reminded me a lot of a TV sitcom: very simple, very contrived, and pretty dull. The few laughs in Stealing Harvard do come when Tom Green is given a little room to 'do what he does', but just as soon as he's let loose the film seems to reel him back in.