'PCU' isn't correct about anything

April 29, 1994|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Sun Film Critic

Until "PCU" came along, no one had had the guts to take on that nettlesome issue of enforced conformity to pre-ordained values that completely dry up the possibility of free exchange of ideas as it plays on today's college campuses.

And now that "PCU" has come along, no one has had the guts to take on that nettlesome issue of enforced conformity to pre-ordained values that completely dry up the possibility of free exchange of ideas as it plays on today's college campuses.

The movie flirts ever so bravely and ever so gently with genuine political incorrectness in the early going, but ends up lazily rounding up the usual suspects. You know the ones: snooty white fraternity boys with authority complexes. Boy, is that ever brave!

When it's not backing away from its premise, it's busy imitating "National Lampoon's Animal House," which probably wasn't worth imitating in the first place.

It briefly evokes a hellish image of today's college campus, as encountered by a visiting high school senior: a place so fractured by self-decreed victim groups with obscure grudges and endless demands of entitlements and so rigidly tribalized that no true life is possible. Meat is murder. Walking on the grass is being unkind to living things. Flowers have souls, too. Is this Connecticut or the Planet Dune?

Alas, poor Tom (Chris Young), in traversing the campus of Port Chester University, a thinly veiled version of the Wesleyan University that screenwriters Zak Penn and Adam Leff attended in the '80s, manages to insult virtually every group of self-righteous zealots. They respond as such people always do: They want to eat his liver, vegetarian syndical-anarchists or not.

Tom takes refuge in the one place that has already exiled him, in a dorm called "The Pit," where a more forgiving, party-nuts outfit has set up shop in the ruins of a defrocked fraternity house. "The Pit" crew -- just like in "Animal House" -- is in the process of being evicted by the authorities for such blasphemous activities as "having fun" as led by a stridently rigid dean, played by Patricia Walters.

At this point, "PCU" pretty much loses interest in the issue of Political Correctness and becomes just another movie about party animals overwhelming the rigid structures of authority. The leader of this crew of merry anarchists is one Droz, played by an extremely amusing Jeremy Piven, probably the best thing in the picture and a clever amalgamation of the parts played by Tim Matheson and Peter Riegert in the original.

Cynically, Droz turns the campus' pieties in on themselves, and shows the students the pleasures of lightening up, popping a top and kicking back. Unfortunately, none of the gags has quite the panache as the ones managed by Matheson, Riegert and, of course, the lovable Blutoish John Belushi. Well, you can't have everything.

"PCU"

Starring Jeremy Piven and Chris Young

Directed by Hart Bochner

Released by Twentieth Century Fox

PG-13

**

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