College

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Opens: Friday, Aug. 29 (MGM)

The current youth generation certainly is entitled to its own version of "National Lampoon's Animal House," but "College" isn't it.

This low-rent frat house comedy is at once far more vulgar and decidedly less anarchic than its obvious inspiration and should flunk out of theaters before this year's crop of freshman students even finish unpacking their bags.

The plot revolves around three high school students -- straight-laced Kevin (Drake Bell), buffoonish fat boy Carter (Andrew Caldwell, channeling Chris Farley) and nerdy Morris (Kevin Covais) -- visiting a suburban college for an introductory weekend. Desperately trying to meet college girls, they fall victim to a fraternity house led by a nasty jock (Nick Zano) who promises to make them pledges for less than altruistic reasons.

But when the hapless threesome actually get lucky with a trio of college girls unaware of their high school status, the frat guys subject them to endless humiliations that eventually are paid back in spades.

One of the film's earliest images is of a pair of flabby male buttocks mooning the camera, which serves as a telling visual metaphor for the audience abuse that is to follow. The endless procession of witless gags -- most of them centering on bodily functions -- produced nary a single laugh at an opening-day showing. And the endless homosexual panic routines -- at one point, the boys are forced to drink body shots off a particularly hirsute naked man -- indicates that the screenwriters might have their own personal issues to work out.

Bell has a nice Jason Bateman-like understated quality, and Haley Bennett, as the college girl who sets her eyes on him, is equally appealing. But most of the members of the youthful ensemble are forced to mug ferociously, with dismal results.

Verne Troyer also makes a cameo appearance, to little effect. Suffice it to say that his recently released sex tape is likely to garner a higher position on his cinematic resume.

Production: Element Films. Cast: Drake Bell, Kevin Covais, Andrew Caldwell, Haley Bennett, Nick Zano, Gary Owen, Zach Cregger, Camilla Mana, Nathalie Walker, Alona Tal, Ryan Pinkston. Director: Deb Hagan. Screenwriters: Dan Callahan, Adam Ellison. Executive producer: Sam Nazarian. Producers: Julie Dangel, Malcolm Petal, Kimberly C. Anderson, Adam Rosenfelt, Marc Schaberg. Rated R, 94 minutes. Director of photography: Daniel Stoloff. Production designer: Ethan Tobman. Music: Transcenders.  Costume designer: Caroline B. Marx. Editor: David Codron.

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