Movie Review: Orange County

By Erik Petersen
Movie Magazine International
Directed by Jake Kasdan and written by Mike White, “Orange County” is a lighthearted comedy about a teenage boy’s struggle to find himself. Colin Hanks stars as Shaun Brumder, an overachieving high school senior in Orange County, California. Unlike his classmates who are obsessed with typical teenage pursuits like surfing or cheerleading Shaun wants nothing more than to realize his dream of being a writer. Unfortunately his dysfunctional family and a ditzy guidance counselor undermine his years of hard work.

As you may have heard, nepotism is alive and well in Hollywood and the lineage for the director and cast is impressive. Director Jake Kasdan is the son of Lawrence Kasdan, while lead actor Colin Hanks’ father is Tom Hanks and his co-star Schuyler Fisk is the daughter of Sissy Spacek. Despite the unfairness of it all, the youngsters distinguish themselves on their own merits and none more so than Colin Hanks who shines in his first major role. In interviews he doesn’t shy away from the inevitable comparisons and they’re not off the mark, in his performance he’s genuine and mature, which is rare, particularly in such a young actor.

In addition to the talented young cast the film stars John Lithgow and Catherine O’Hara and features impressive cameos from major stars such as Kevin Kline, Ben Stiller, Lily Tomlin, Harold Ramis and Chevy Chase. The cast is a tribute no doubt to the director and actors powerful parents but also a testament to the fact that this is a well-written script. Up until now writer Mike White was best known for his offbeat film “Chuck and Buck”, which he wrote and starred in. This is a much more mainstream effort but his honest portrayal of dysfunctional relationships still resonates. He also turns in a very funny performance in a small role as a high school teacher.

Even with the high caliber cast though it’s Jack Black, in his role as Lance Brumder, Shaun’s drug addled brother, who steals the film. Overweight and unkempt Lance is easily defeated by life’s simpler tasks, such as answering the phone or dressing himself. Nevertheless, despite his failings he genuinely loves his brother and will do anything to help him achieve his dream. Which of course is when mayhem ensues. Very funny mayhem.

I liked “Orange County” very much. Unlike most of the recent teen films there’s no gross-out jokes or absurd sexual fantasies. It’s simply a sweet and funny film. While it doesn’t break any new ground it made me laugh a lot and the screwed-up Brumder family seemed all too real. I’m Erik Petersen for Movie Magazine.
More Information:
Orange County
USA - 2002