Let 'Dead Man' rest in peace

August 21, 1998|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

"Dead Man On Campus" is certainly that dead, I mean.

It certainly isn't funny. Sure, there are a few laughs, like when two guys in camouflage makeup zigzag their way up a street (kind of like John Belushi sprinting up the steps of the administration office in "Animal House").

But the jokes are few. And the only real reason you'll laugh is that, by the time they appear on screen, you've been waiting so long for the opportunity, you'll laugh at anything.

From MTV, the same folks who earlier brought forth "Joe's Apartment," about a guy and some talking cockroaches, "Dead Man On Campus" is about two college freshmen. Josh (Tom Everett Scott) is the studious one; he has to be to maintain a B+ average and keep his scholarship. Cooper (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) is the cut-up, the party animal, the guy whose most prized possession is an enormous bong (although, in a nod to political correctness, he's never really stoned).

Of course, the two end up as roommates, and soon the fun begins. Cooper is so persistent that he manages to turn Josh away from his studies. Bad move: By the end of the semester, both are doomed to failure, which means Josh loses his scholarship and Cooper ends up working for his dad, cleaning toilets for a living.

Ah, but there's a loophole: The college has a rule that, if a student kills himself, his roommates automatically get straight A's. So the problem's solved; all Josh and Cooper have to do is find the biggest loser on campus, get him to move in, then urge him to do something that ends with a eulogy and a pine box.

Of course, none of this sounds funny, but that doesn't mean it couldn't be: Anyone who's ever laughed at "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" knows how funny black humor can be. But "Dead Man On Campus" is almost resolutely humorless; neither Scott nor Gosselaar do funny well, and by the time funny actors show up -- especially Lochlyn Munroe as a manic live-wire who thinks getting shot is pretty awesome, and Randy Pearlstein as a paranoid computer geek convinced Bill Gates is out to get him -- the movie's simply too far gone.

'Dead Man on Campus'

Starring Tom Everett Scott and Mark-Paul Gosselaar

Directed by Alan Cohn

Released by Paramount

Rated R (language, sexual situations, mock violence)

Running time: 90 minutes

Sun score: *

Pub Date: 8/21/98

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