Making the Grades
Shaun Brumber's (Colin Hanks) sole ambition is to be a writer--and a good one. Eager to study with his favorite author (Kevin Kline), he applies to Stanford University. But a computer mis-click by an airhead guidance counselor (Lily Tomlin) sends the wrong (and considerably less stellar) transcripts to the school's administration office. Determined to get out of Orange County, the aspiring novelist rushes off to Stanford with his drugged-out brother (Jack Black) behind the wheel to try and re-write the wrong.
But if things at home look bad with an alcoholic mother (Catherine O'Hara), elderly and highly medicated stepfather, prattling housekeeper, money hungry father (John Lithgow), wanton 20-something stepmom, and a couple of laid back boarding buddies, the plot is about to thicken.
With some help from his girlfriend Ashley (Schuyler Fisk), Shaun finds the university's dean of admissions. However, a few unplanned (and drug related) incidents leave his chances for acceptance burning in a pile of rubble.
Unfortunately Orange County seems to have suffered from a few mis-clicks on the word processor too. The script spends most of its time relying on sexual quips and dysfunctional family situations for the bulk of its humor. Jack Black's character, seen most often in briefs and socks, waddles through the entire film in a chemically enhanced state of mind while O'Hara guzzles booze from one scene to the next. Both addictions are laughed off with little more than a roll of the eyes. Sexual encounters, although mostly limited to full-body kissing and "after" scenes, portray some homosexual and lesbian activities. Language concerns include explicit and crude sexual terms and hand gestures, leaving the movie's chances for family acceptance going up in smoke.
Following in their parents' footsteps, Fisk (daughter of Sissy Spacek), and Hanks (whose famous father Tom has played many multi-faceted characters--Cast Away, You've Got Mail), may be proof that genetics don't count for everything. Even with an orchard of famous comedians (Chevy Chase, Ben Stiller, Harold Ramis) lending their faces, this is one film that doesn't deserve any navel gazing.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Orange County.
Why does writing become such a passion for Shaun? Do you think it helps him deal with his life circumstances? How can keeping a journal help a person find out about himself/herself?
If you were to write a book about your life thus far, what would it be titled? Who would be the main characters in your story? How do they compare with the characters in Orange County?
Shaun believes that money does not equal happiness. What examples of that did you see in this film? How do you feel about money? How much do you need to be satisfied?