Unfairly leafed in with the Farrelly Brothers and American Pie stable at the time of its release, Orange County is probably the film most in need of defending to date on Flicks On ‘Flix. Directed by Jake (Son Of Lawrence) Kasdan, starring Colin (Son Of Tom) Hanks, Jack Black, John Lithgow, Catherine O’ Hara and with a host of cameos – this film knows exactly what it is but maybe gave the impression it was something more inadvertently through such a stellar cast and crew. Ignore all of that and you’ll find its just an extremely enjoyable watch instead.
Hanks stars as Shaun Brumder, a fresh graduate hell bent on getting accepted into Stanford University. When an incompetent guidance counsellor (Lily Tomlin in the first of those many glorious cameos) sends the wrong transcript for Shaun to Stanford he must embark on a road trip with his stoner brother Lance (Jack Black) to try and correct the mistake. So far, so mindless teen road trip comedy. There is a lot more to it than that however. The principle conflict of the film comes about in the shape of Shaun’s girlfriend Ashley (Schuyler Fisk) and how his determined endeavour to leave Orange County will effectively end their relationship, something he is completely oblivious to.
Ok so I’m doing an absolutely awful job of selling this as anything more than “another one of those movies” but there’s a blatant elevation above the norm at play here and it is the script, direction and performances that take the full credit. Kasdan is directing from a script by Jack Black alum Mike White and it is carrying a smarter level of wit to it than your average gross out material. In fact, the film features barely anything you could call gross out aside from the sight of Black in a pair of tightey whities. The direction is assured for someone who was relatively inexperienced on the feature film stage at the time and could easily have slipped into tropes and prat falls. I guess when you’re father is a somewhat legendary screenwriter and director you pick up a few things.
The performances though. There are times when Hanks veers eerily close to some of his father’s early roles but the resemblance between the two may be more to blame for that than anything else. That aside, he fantastically brings across Shaun as a character we take to and sympathise with; for we have all suffered the level of idiocy he is surrounded by at one point or another. Yet when the time comes for him to flip to the “villain”, as his conflict with Ashley comes to a head, we have no problem flipping our own opinions. Extremely solid above all else. Jack Black is the standout in many ways though. Like his fellow comedian Adam Sandler, Black’s style of comedy exploded into popular culture with heaps of goodwill and keen praise but quickly became worn and tiresome. If you ask me – and given that you’re reading this I presume you would – I would say this is the finest “full Jack Black” performance he has ever given and if you had to watch only one film where he plays up his shtick to its fullest, this should be it. Fisk gets left to one side a little in one of the films less refined points from a script perspective but I was able to buy into her and side with her when called upon to do so. The cameos speak for themselves and I won’t get into them but suffice to say they are all perfectly places and brilliantly executed, ranging from hilarious to heart warming.
I’m a multiple viewer when it comes to films. Unless I feel wildly offended come the final credits I will tend to give a film a second viewing at least. There are further exceptions though, the ones I can watch time and time again and each time get another little bit of that feeling I got when I first watched it. Be it the horror films with lingering scares, the comedy with lasting laughs or the drama that never fails to draw a breath, these films reside in a minority but they are the ones that impress me most, and Orange County slots into that bracket with ease.