Saturday, January 2, 2010

"Freshman" comedy is better than most

Freshman Orientation (2007)
92 min., rated R
Grade: B -

Ryan Siraki's freshman film was originally called Home of Phobia at Sundance in 2004, then retitled Freshman Orientation for theatrical release.

Sam Huntington plays a self-described “B-student from Wisconsin” named Clay in his freshman year at an Anywhere, USA university. Pretty blonde Amanda (Kaitlin Doubleday) gets admitted to the snootiest sorority on campus, or anywhere, and has to seduce a gay man as a cruel initation. Of course, she spots Clay and he pretends to be out-and-proudly gay so he can woo her.

Surprisingly brighter than most in the teen comedy genre, Freshman Orientation doesn't always deal in stereotypes with its closet cases and sorostitutes, plus handles its provocative issues of tolerance and coming-outdom with more sincerity and less preaching. Huntington is affable in the part, and Doubleday isn't just another vacuous actress but smart and cute.

What's refreshing is that most of the characters aren't pigeonholed: John Goodman is a delight queening around in his against-type role as a light-in-his-loafers bartender; Marla Sokoloff has her naughty and nice moments as Clay's ex-girlfriend, new to lesbianism; and Mike Erwin is credibly low-key as Clay's virginal roomie who harbors a secret.

But Rachel Dratch as “Very Drunk Chick” and Heather Matarazzo as a sorority chick are more abrasive than funny and seem to be acting in a much broader comedy.

Even if it's often uninspired in its dumb-comedy gags (especially a Britney Spears rendition where the whole GSA alliance chimes in), Freshman Orientation is likable and has the right idea.

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