“Sean! SEAN! You’re my same height. That is neat.” What more needs to be said? Here’s  Mark Batalla of PixelDrip Gallery with another look at the Jake Kasdan/Mike White collaboration that sneaks up on those willing to give themselves over to its low-key (and dryly funny) charms.

Aw, geez, is it almost time for my high school reunion already? Ten years ago was my senior year, so it coincided pretty nicely with the release of Orange County. In the film, Colin Hanks’s Shaun Brumder is a senior anxiously trying as hard as he can to get accepted into Stanford so he can escape his life in Orange County.

Alright, let’s back up for a minute there. Shaun may be an affluent teen living in an affluent county trying to get into an affluent university, but that’s not focused on much in this movie. One could easily switch out the Orange County and Stanford locations with no impact whatsoever to the plot. The elements that do get played up have more to do with Shaun’s growing restlessness with having lived with the same group of people, like Jack Black as his big brother Lance, for eighteen years. In addition, these relationships with friends and family are becoming strained due to the potential split that will occur if he ends up going to college out of town.

Despite the wacky hijinks displayed in the trailer, Orange County distances itself from the typical high school movie/show. The class warfare (pun intended) of the various cliques is noticeably absent (alright, I’ll stop). Much like Parks and Recreation, the film’s approach to the entire cast of characters is to make them likeable. Nobody is acting out maliciously at another person. At their worst, the characters are merely annoying. For example, Carly Pope’s Tanya seems like the cliché snobbish cheerleader, but there’s enough absurdity to her backstory that you just end up laughing at her.

If there’s anything that I would fault Orange County for, it’s the oversaturation of licensed music. It feels like a new song is played with every scene change. Of course, that’s to be expected for an MTV film, which easily doubles the number of songs on the soundtrack compared to if it had been produced by another studio. And “Butterfly” by Crazy Town is so damn catchy. There are two dance sequences set to it. That’s two more than normal! If not for the music, which severely dates this movie, Orange County would have a greater sense of timelessness to it.

Despite its faults, Mike White’s writing manages to mix humor and heart in way that’s not unlike a Judd Apatow project (Leslie Mann is in it too). The humor has some wacky and awkward situations, but it never goes over the top. Same goes for the drama’s emotional beats, which never get too sappy. The film is simply a straightforward coming-of-age story, and I especially recommend Orange County as essential viewing for anyone that’s currently entertaining thoughts of going to college.

Is It Better Or Worse Than I Remember?

It’s better. Ten years ago, I was watching TV in the living room when my big brother came in and told me to check out this movie. I had nothing better to do at the time, so I did. Afterwards, he asked me what I thought about it and I replied that I liked it and thought it was an okay comedy.

That was the problem. I went expecting some type of Jack Black comedy. Sure, Orange County has its share of laughs, but it’s by no means a belly buster. Not only that, but I thought to myself, “hey, this is a movie. This is fiction. I shouldn’t really be taking the narrative too seriously.” I didn’t realize how genuine and straightforward White’s writing really was.

When I look back at my life from a decade ago, it makes me wonder if I also missed something that my brother was trying to tell me. After this most recent viewing, I think about how ashamed Shaun is of his family. I think about how Shaun makes an incredibly huge deal when he doesn’t get into the school of his choice and acts as if there are no other options left in life. I think about how the Brumder parents, though initially separated, find some way to rekindle their relationship and reconcile. Lastly, I think about how Lance, despite not having a fancy job and still living at home with his parents, still cares very much for his younger brother when all is said and done.

Then I think about Lance tumbling around in his briefs. Big brothers are fucking weird.

Free-Floating Thoughts

Although I don’t actively follow Mike White’s work, I do enjoy watching the ones I come across, like Dead Man on Campus, Dawson’s Creek, School of Rock, and Nacho Libre.

There’s something about Colin Hanks that just rubs me the wrong way. It might be a combination of his weaselly face and what I perceive to be nepotism in him landing some projects like That Thing You Do! and Band of Brothers.

Is there a more obnoxious movie shot than a character looking at the camera and talking out loud? Probably if the character isn’t breaking the fourth wall while doing it. Who talks out loud while typing like that?

Whenever I see them onscreen, I confuse Mike White, Jack McBrayer, and Ewen Bremner with each other.

I’m not sure if this was intentional, but Colin Hanks also made an appearance on The O.C. several years later. He was part of the show within the show called “The Valley.” Wow, did it just get really meta in here?

Holy crap. That dog really did bite Schuyler Fisk’s face.

And there’s a swimming pool scene as a reference to The Graduate. The protagonists of both films have plenty of angst in regards to their uncertain futures.

Best line of the film goes to John Lithgow’s Bud Brumder when he finds out about Shaun’s plans after graduation: “A writer? What do you have to write about? You’re not oppressed. You’re not gay.”

I barely recognized Harold Ramis. If that’s how he looked like ten years ago, then I’m not sure I want to see Dr. Egon Spengler in that shape in a potential Ghostbusters III.

Hey! It’s Lizzy Caplan in her pre-Party Down role of “brunette friend.”

Whatever happened to Schuyler Fisk? I would’ve figured her role in this movie would have cemented here as one of the Apatow regulars. Hollywood needs more cute redheads.