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Film review: ‘Accepted’ is no ‘Animal House’

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Bartleby Gaines (Justin Long) is rejected by yet another university.

Bartleby Gaines (Justin Long) is rejected by yet another university.

Suzanne Hanover, Universal Pictures

"ACCEPTED" — ** — Justin Long, Jonah Hill, Lewis Black; rated PG-13 (vulgarity, profanity, drugs, violence, nude artwork).

"Accepted" wants to have its cake and eat it, too. This "Animal House" wannabe for a new generation has R-rated sensibilities, but it was reportedly heavily edited by the studio to earn a supposedly more audience-friendly PG-13 rating.

As a result, the film lacks the bite and naughtiness of its inspiration, making it something more akin to "Baby Animal House." Yet it's still surprisingly crude and crass for a PG-13 film.

And this comedy is not nearly as clever as it thinks it is. In fact, the concept may be the cleverest aspect.

Justin Long stars as Bartleby Gaines, an enterprising slacker who's gotten rejection letters from several local colleges and universities. His parents aren't exactly pleased.

So with help from his technologically savvy pal, Sherman (Jonah Hill), the desperate teen creates a fake college where he's supposedly been accepted. Unfortunately, because of a glitch on the Web site Sherman created, other "students" have been accepted to the fictional college as well, and they show up expecting an education. Meanwhile, officials from a neighboring university are looking into the new rival institution.

One of the biggest problems here is that the material is so routine and by-the-numbers. The filmmakers even give Bartleby a love interest (Blake Lively), a subplot that drags things to a screeching halt.

As for Long ("Herbie: Fully Loaded"), he's pretty likable, but he can't carry this film by himself. And his co-stars are uninspired, with the exception of comedian Lewis Black. Playing a variation on his cranky stand-up character, Black gets a few guilty laughs as Sherman's washout uncle, who serves as dean of the "college." (That little finger-flicking thing he does before he goes off on his rants is hilarious.)

"Accepted" is rated PG-13 for crude humor and references, sex gags and bodily function jokes, some strong profanity (including one usage of the so-called "R-rated" curse word), drug content (mostly references to marijuana use), comic violence (slapstick), and nude and sexually suggestive artwork (sculptures). Running time: 90 minutes.

E-mail: jeff@desnews.com