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"DEAD MAN ON CAMPUS"
(1998) (Tom Everett Scott, Mark-Paul Gosselaar) (R)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Heavy Moderate Heavy Minor Mild
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Moderate Minor Minor *Heavy Extreme
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Moderate *None Minor Mild Mild


QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: Two failing college students try to find an unstable roommate so that they can take advantage of a rule guaranteeing straight A's if one's roommate dies or commits suicide.
PLOT:
Josh (TOM EVERETT SCOTT) is a freshman attending Daleman College on an academic scholarship. Eager in his quest to succeed as a pre-med major, Josh is disheartened by the carefree and often rude antics of his roommate, Cooper (MARK-PAUL GOSSELAAR), the son of a wealthy businessman.

Despite his diligent efforts to ignore Cooper's parties and drug use, Josh eventually succumbs to the laid-back, college party atmosphere when he meets and then sleeps with another student, Rachel (POPPY MONTGOMERY). Soon, Josh partakes in Cooper's drugs and develops a lackadaisical attitude toward his studies.

The roommates' attitudes change, however, when they realize they'll be kicked out of college if they don't average high grades -- something that's nearly impossible now since they've failed everything so far. Desperate not to go back home, the two decide to take advantage of an academic loophole that states that if anyone's roommate dies or commits suicide during the school year, their roommate(s) will automatically receive straight A's.

Realizing neither wants to die for the other, and after their original suite-mate, Kyle (JASON SEGEL) has moved out, Josh and Cooper set out to find the most distraught or crazed students on campus and pick one to be their new suite-mate. They subsequently narrow their choices down to three students: Cliff (LOCHLYN MUNRO), a crazed party hound and frat member prone to hanging from his balcony when not terrorizing other students with his in-your-face demeanor; Buckley (RANDY PEARLSTEIN), a geeky student filled with paranoid delusions that everyone's out to get him; and Matt (COREY PAGE), a talented, but distraught rock n' roll singer seemingly on the verge of committing suicide.

As the guys try to pick the candidate least likely to make it to the end of the semester -- all while hanging out with Rachel and her friends Lucy (ALYSON HANNIGAN) and Kristin (MARI MORROW) -- they hope that their plan will succeed and allow them to stay in college.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
Middle to older teens who are hip to college-based comedies might want to see this one.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: R
For drug use, language and crude sexual humor.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • TOM EVERETT SCOTT plays an initially dedicated student who eventually sleeps with a girl and then does drugs and parties hard before figuring out such behavior is detrimental to his scholarship. From that point on, he hopes to find a roommate who will kill himself, thus guaranteeing him straight A's.
  • MARK-PAUL GOSSELAAR plays Josh's roommate who similarly does drugs, parties, and then hopes to find a suicidal roommate for the same reason.
  • POPPY MONTGOMERY plays a young coed who quickly sleeps with Josh and then gets upset that he's not seeing her anymore.
  • LOCHLYN MUNRO plays the stereotypical, crazed frat member who's loud, obnoxious, and downright earthy in his behavior. Along the way, he balances himself on an upper floor balcony railing, shoots at police after getting them to chase him, etc...
  • RANDY PEARLSTEIN plays a paranoid geek who believes everyone's out to get him.
  • COREY PAGE plays a suicidal rock n' roll singer with a bad attitude that's more show than reality.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    OUR TAKE: 2 out of 10
    Further supporting the belief that late August is the dumping ground, graveyard, or junkyard -- if you will -- of the summer movie season, "Dead Man On Campus" is a one note comedy that's not very funny when it could have been quite morbidly clever. Produced by Viacom siblings Paramount Studios and MTV -- and directed by one of the latter's non-music video directors -- this film might marginally play well with college-age crowds, but even they should be less than impressed with this film's lackluster execution.

    Based on the decades old rumor that if one's college roommate perishes during the school year, automatic high grades will be awarded to the "survivor," the film has plenty of black comedy potential, but mostly squanders all of it away due to its weak and unimaginative plot.

    If a film's going to use suicide as its core theme -- a tricky and touchy proposition that has to be handled just right -- it can come off as deliciously wicked satire. Burt Reynolds tried to do that in the 1978 goofy comedy, "The End" and while that film wasn't great, it seems magnificent when compared to this near meaningless production.

    While we certainly don't condone such activity, if the story's going for black comedy and its protagonists need a suicide, then they need to be rather proactive in their means and the subject matter needs to be taken to the extreme. While the characters here set out to find the right candidate, and do what they can to get any of their three choices to move in with them, they drop the ball once they accomplish that goal.

    Although a brief "scare" scene occurs when their paranoid suite-mate finds the "roomies" in the shower holding a noose and knife, that's about it for their efforts to push them over the edge. (Note: The film never explains how suite-mates qualify as roommates -- meaning their demise should only warrant straight C's at best). Instead, the guys sit back and wait for something to happen and the humor is presumably supposed to originate from their reactions to their "whacked out" new suite-mates and their idiosyncracies.

    While a few laughs occasionally pop up -- including one where a girl's hair catches on fire in the true juvenile spirit of "There's Something About Mary" -- the rest of the material falls flat on its face. Previously unproduced screenwriters Mike White and Michael Traeger are mostly to blame, for their script neither hits the necessary wicked comedy marks, nor does it capture or paint any new outlook on college life that we haven't already seen in countless other films.

    Taking around thirty minutes before getting around to the deceased roommate element, and another twenty minutes or so before finally meeting some potential candidates, they've filled their script with long, laborious scenes (featuring quick, but ineffective MTV style editing) that are decidedly not very funny.

    Of course, one can't solely fault them, and thus we point out director Alan Cohn who also makes his feature film debut after working on MTV programs such as "The Real World." Other than for a few brief laughs, Cohn doesn't do much with the material or elicit much of anything substantial from his cast.

    As such, the performances are what you'd expect from a standard teenage/college comedy. Tom Everett Scott, who made such an impressive debut in "That Thing You Do," partially redeems himself from appearing in the awful "An American Werewolf in Paris," but still raises the question about whether he's a one hit wonder (or "oneder" as his band was called in that Tom Hanks film).

    Mark-Paul Gosselaar, who appeared for years playing Zak on TV's "Saved By The Bell," makes his feature film debut with this picture. Other than looking like something of a cross between actors Dean Cain and Matthew Perry (from TV's "Superman" and "Friends" respectively), though, his performance is unremarkable.

    All of which leaves the supporting cast to take up the slack. Lochlyn Munro is occasionally funny in an absurdist type of way, but a little of his hyper, over the top student routine goes a long way. Randy Pearlstein plays the stereotypical paranoid geek with glee, while Corey Page does an okay turn as the despondent, but poetic punk rocker.

    About as lame as one would expect from a teen comedy released during the garbage run of the summer season, this film will only find a limited audience before quickly "graduating" to the video shelves of your local rental store. Missing a golden opportunity to really let loose with the black comedy, "Dead Man On Campus" is an unremarkable and easily forgettable film. We give it just a 2 out of 10.

    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    Due to technical difficulties, some material from the last thirty minutes of the film may be missing from our review. Even so, profanity is still extreme, with at least 16 "f" words and an assortment of other words and phrases occurring. The two main characters, along with other students, ingest marijuana via joints or bongs, and underage drinking also occurs.

    Some of the film's attempts at humor come from sexually related material, and while we do see some students "fooling around," no explicit activity occurs and the only nudity seen comes from a guy mooning others.

    Although played for laughs, some viewers may not like the film using suicide as a comedic source, nor may they appreciate the main characters' preoccupation with finding a suicidal student and using that as their "easy way out" solution for getting high grades. Since it's a possibility that some kids will want to see this film, you may want to take a closer look at its content should any of it concern you.


    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • Due to technical difficulties, some material from the last thirty minutes of the film may be missing. Therefore, the following should be considered a minimum.
  • Cooper does a bong hit and offers for Josh to join him, but he declines.
  • People then show up in the guys' room and have a party where students drink beer and smoke joints.
  • A student hands out prescription drugs to other students telling which ones are the best to take for certain academic needs.
  • We see Cooper cleaning his bong and he tells Josh that it's time for a "study break."
  • Cooper and Josh go to a bar where people are drinking, including Rachel and her friends who state, "We've been getting drunk without you."
  • Josh smokes a joint.
  • Students drink beer and smoke pot at a party, and we see Josh smoking another joint.
  • Cooper and Josh drink beer along with some older men in a bar.
  • Cliff guzzles down a beer while Cooper has one as well. Cliff then acts like a rapper and sings that he's got some "crack."
  • Cliff does a bong hit, and then nearly gets Lucy to do one as well, but his lighter catches her hair on fire.
  • More students drink and smoke pot at a party.
  • Cooper does another bong hit just before Josh grabs the bong and throws it to the floor, shattering it.
  • The guys have margaritas in another student's room.
  • We see Cooper smoking a joint while cleaning a toilet.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • We see several views of a cadaver (head and shoulders) in an anatomy class, and one of them shows the man after his chest has been cut open and the sight is rather gory.
  • We hear Lucy throwing up over a bridge, and later see a guy getting up from a toilet (presumably after also throwing up).
  • After Josh takes a swig from a beer bottle, Cliff tells him that it's not beer (suggesting that it's urine).
  • Although played for laughs, Cliff tries to light a bong for Lucy when he accidentally sets her long hair on fire and we briefly see her head nearly fully engulfed (she's okay). Cliff says he'll put out the fire and starts to unzip his pants (as the source of "liquids" needed to extinguish the fire), but the guys stop him.
  • We hear Buckley peeing into a toilet.
  • We see Cliff's blood stained shirt and the small bullet hole that's in it.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Due to technical difficulties, some material from the last thirty minutes of the film may be missing. Therefore, the following should be considered a minimum.
  • Although the film is obviously a dark comedy, some viewers may not like its use of suicide as a source of humor. Directly related to that, the two main characters purposefully set out to find and hopefully push a suicidal student over the edge so that they (Josh and Cooper) can get straight A's the easy way after knowingly blowing their chances at getting good grades the regular way.
  • Toward the end, the guys think they've hit pay dirt when they find a student who's actually trying to commit suicide. They race to make him look like he's their roommate before he dies, and when Josh finally saves him, Cooper's mad that he did.
  • Kyle occasionally has an irritated or edgy attitude toward his suite-mates.
  • Cooper has some of both for making noise and not caring about Josh's need to study.
  • Naive Lucy unknowingly makes some stereotypical racist comments to Kristen (who's black) about "being from the 'hood," etc...
  • Josh sleeps with Rachel, and then pretty much ignores her for the rest of the film (being too preoccupied with his plan).
  • A bartender allows Cooper to buy some beer after the underage student shows many fake i.d.'s.
  • Josh eventually joins Cooper in having a "who cares," lackadaisical attitude toward college and studying -- and Cooper says that bad grades are "meaningless."
  • Cooper rips a page from the College's charter.
  • Cooper and Josh break into the college's suicide hotline building to steal personal records.
  • Cliff has both for his overbearing behavior, but also for playing "chicken" with other cars on the road at night (driving them off the road) and for calling police officers pigs, getting them to chase him, and then shooting at them with his gun.
  • Some viewers may not like a scene where Kyle goes into a confessional and admits to masturbating to the freshman pictorial guide and we then see the confessional rocking back and forth as the priest flees.
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • Although played for laughs, Cliff tries to light a bong for Lucy when he accidentally sets her long hair on fire and we briefly see her head nearly fully engulfed in flames (she's okay).
  • A brief, "Carrie"-like dream scene where a hand comes up out of a grave and grabs someone may scare the youngest of kids or those ultra-sensitive to such scenes, but it's not that inherently scary.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • Handgun: Used by Cliff to shoot at police cars pursuing him in his car, and later used by someone to shoot Cliff in the back (not seen, but we do see the bloody bullet hole in his shirt).
  • Knife: Held by Cooper as he prepares to leave it for Buckley should he decide to use it.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Due to technical difficulties, some material from the last thirty minutes of the film may be missing. Therefore, the following should be considered a minimum.
  • Phrases: "F*ck me," "Screw" (sexual and nonsexual), "Suck my (quiet) c*ck," "Holy sh*t," "Blow job," "Shut the sh*t up," "Horny," "Dildo," "Jacking off," "Kiss my ass," "Piss off," "Eat me," "Balls" (testicles), "Freakin'," "Screwing up," "Screwed up," "Ho'" (whore), "Chicks" (women), "Lesbos" (lesbians) and "Pigs" (police).
  • The film deals with suicide and does show a student who's found after overdosing on pills (he's saved), and Josh later fakes like he's going to jump from a bridge. Beyond that, the introductory credits scene shows drawings or sketches of potential ways of committing suicide (obviously done for laughs, but here they are): Scissors into electrical outlets, bags over heads, how to cut wrists, breathing in tailpipe exhaust, etc...
  • Students may also want to adopt similar lackadaisical attitudes toward schoolwork, especially since these guys turn out okay in the end for not having passed anything, or even attended classes.
  • Cooper shows many fake i.d.'s while trying to buy some beer and the bartender finally allows him to do so.
  • Cooper and Josh sit on the railing of a bridge, where Cooper says that too many people think about the future and should instead be thinking about the present and having fun. He then states that college is their last chance to go crazy.
  • Cooper gives the "f you" gesture (hand into the elbow crease of the other arm that's then bent upwards).
  • We see Cliff standing on the railing of a frat house balcony, throwing water balloons at people. We then see him pull down his pants and moon everyone (with the words, "Eat Me" written on his butt).
  • Cliff loudly belches after guzzling a beer.
  • Cliff plays "chicken" with oncoming cars on a highway at night and runs them off the road. He then calls some police officers "pigs," gets them to chase him, and then shoots a gun at them while driving. Josh and Cooper then jump from his speeding car out onto the highway (and aren't hurt).
  • JUMP SCENES
  • A brief, "Carrie"-like dream scene where a hand comes up out of a grave and grabs someone may scare the youngest of kids or those ultra-sensitive to such scenes, but it's not that inherently startling and shouldn't make most viewers jump.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • A few scenes have tiny bits of playfully suspenseful music in them.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • Due to technical difficulties, some material from the last thirty minutes of the film may be missing. Therefore, the following should be considered a minimum.
  • Some of the lyrics were hard to understand, but it sounded like 1 "f" word along with a hell in two songs.
  • Matt sings a song titled, "Sperm," that includes a line related directly to that bodily fluid.
  • PROFANITY
  • Due to technical difficulties, some material from the last thirty minutes of the film may be missing. Therefore, the following should be considered a minimum.
  • At least 16 "f" words (2 used sexually, as is the term, "screw"), 10 "s" words, 2 slang terms using male genitals ("d*ck" and "c*ck"), 1 slang term using female genitals ("p*ssy"), 9 asses (3 used with "hole"), 3 hells, 1 damn, and 4 uses of "G-damn," and 1 use each of "Holy Mary, Mother of God," "Jesus Christ," "Oh my God," "My God" and "God" as exclamations.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • Due to technical difficulties, some material from the last thirty minutes of the film may be missing. Therefore, the following should be considered a minimum.
  • In several scenes we see views of posters featuring bikini clad women that show some cleavage (as well as skimpy bathing suits).
  • Cooper tells Kyle, "You're so horny, you've turned mean."
  • Some students comment that Josh's high school math award looks like a dildo.
  • Kyle comments that he's been "jacking off" to the freshman pictorial handbook for the past several weeks.
  • The morning after a party, we see that Cooper has a girl in bed with him (suggesting sexual behavior, but no nudity or behavior is seen).
  • We briefly see Kyle with his arms around a shirtless girl who's wearing just a bra (and showing some cleavage).
  • Cooper and a girl return back to the room and start taking off their clothes (no nudity, but we do see her in her bra) and climb into bed where she gets on top of him. When she asks, "What about your roommate?" Cooper jokingly responds, "Don't worry, he likes to watch."
  • Rachel seductively takes Josh back to her room, and when we see him coming back home the next morning, we know that they had sex. Cooper even asks him, "You had sex last night, didn't you?" Josh responds, "It was so easy, Cooper. I didn't have to do anything. To make it happen. It was just like, time for sex....prepare for sex."
  • Opening his fly and inserting Josh's stethoscope, Cooper comments, "I can hear my heartbeat through my penis" (we don't see anything).
  • We see a several second shot of Cliff's butt as he moons other students.
  • Cliff asks Josh and Cooper if they ever get "horny," and then proceeds to hump a lamp and then jumps on the couch and does the same, stating, "I'm gonna hump this lamp. Gotta screw this couch."
  • Trying to divert Cliff's attention, Josh tells him that Rachel and her two friends are lesbians, something that Cliff finds "cool."
  • After accidentally setting Lucy's hair on fire, Cliff says, "I guess a blow job's (now) out of the question."
  • Cliff occasionally mentions that they should go and get some hookers, but nothing ever happens.
  • An occasional running joke deals with some guys on the hall thinking that Josh and Cooper are lovers (after misinterpreting seeing the two on the ground where they fell into an "embrace" and acted gay to divert attention from what they were really doing). Later, when the guys think the two are having a "spat," they hear bits of the conversation, such as "Don't pull out on me," "We need to be safe," "You're so anal," etc... that they misconstrue.
  • Kyle eventually returns to his original room and asks who the two people are who "are f*cking in my room." The door then opens and we see Matt on top of Kristin in bed (she's in her bra), but don't see anything else happening.
  • Kyle goes into a confessional and admits to masturbating to the freshman pictorial guide and we then see the confessional rocking back and forth as the priest flees.
  • SMOKING
  • Beyond the smoking of joints and bong hits, we didn't see any regular smoking, but there's the possibility that some may occur in the backgrounds of scenes.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • Cooper's dad gets a little physical with him and informs him that he'd better get good grades or else.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • The "roommate dying equals good grades" rumor that nearly every college student has heard.
  • That there are no magic or last minute solutions to getting good grades if one hasn't studied, gone to class, and done the work.
  • VIOLENCE
  • Due to technical difficulties, some material from the last thirty minutes of the film may be missing. Therefore, the following should be considered a minimum.
  • Cooper's dad puts him into a headlock (arm around neck) for several moments.
  • Cooper rips a page from the College's charter.
  • Cooper flips over a chalkboard that accidentally hits Josh in the face.
  • Breaking into the college's suicide hotline offices, Cooper accidentally breaks a window pane in a skylight, and later repeatedly kicks a file cabinet drawer until he breaks it open.
  • As Cooper flees from a pursuing security officer (after breaking into an administrative building at night), Cooper unknowingly pulls the officer behind him via a rope, causing the officer to crash into walls, etc... Cooper then leaps through a window to escape, shattering it.
  • Upon Cliff's insistence, Josh kicks him in the crotch, which somehow pleases him.
  • Although played for laughs, Cliff tries to light a bong for Lucy when he accidentally sets her long hair on fire and we briefly see her head nearly fully engulfed (she's okay).
  • Cliff shoots his handgun back at some police cars that are pursuing him.
  • Later, we see a bloody bullet hole in Cliff's shirt, indicating he was shot.
  • Cooper throws a chalkboard out their window, and it breaks apart upon hitting the ground.
  • Josh grabs Cooper's bong and throws it to the floor, where it shatters upon impact.
  • The guys find a student who's tried to kill himself with an overdose (Josh eventually saves him).



  • Reviewed August 18, 1998

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