PCU

(Comedy)

Screenwriters Adam Leff and Zak Penn, who garnered notoriety last year for providing the story for Last Action Hero, have concocted a new rowdy comedy, PCU, a boisterous if not uproariously funny look at political correctness as it afflicts college campuses today. Though not stinging enough, this timely satire could rise above modest box-office expectations if it connects significantly with the generational group that is its subject.

Left and Penn set their yarn at the fictional Port Chester University, possibly standing in for Wesleyan, their alma mater. It's a campus divided into so many protest groups that students have no time to attend classes. At the center is a coed gang, whose anarchic leader Droz (Jeremy Piven) encourages any form of offensive and bizarre behavior. The gang resides at the Pit, a vibrantly messy dorm that embraces smoking and drinking and dismisses such worthy causes as recycling and sympathy for murdered animals.

Into this chaos arrives Tom (Chris Young), a handsome pre-freshman totally unprepared for life on the treacherous campus, which is torn apart by Rand (“Saturday Night Live” David Spade), a spoiled brat who leads the wealthy Republican fraternity; the Womynists, headed by a humorless feminist, and other militant clubs.
Despite diverse causes, however, all factions seem to be united in their hatred of the Pit and their wish to shut it down. And few people on campus, including the Board of Trustees, can tolerate the stuffy and rigid president (Jessica Walter), who eventually gets her comeuppance during the school's bicentennial ceremonies.

True to form, PCU dispenses an exaggerated view of college culture, but it also reveals a sensitive ear to its current lingo and ambience. For instance, outraged at a student who dared to bed a white male, the feminists protest against “penis parties,” and demand to be called women instead of girls. Most of the jokes, however, are rather mild, like a student writing a thesis that seeks to prove that any given moment a Gene Hackman or Michael Caine movie can be found on TV.

PCU tries to capture the kind of comic energy and surreal fun that pics like House Party or National Lampoon's Animal House had. But despite some memorable vignettes, the show's climax, a huge party in which George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic perform, is not very satisfying. Unfortunately, the pranks don't match the resourceful and boisterous music, composed by Steve Vai and executive produced by Ralph Sall.

In his feature directorial debut, Hart Bochner shows some visual flair and a sense of tempo. But whenever his pic dawdles, he tries to increase its vitality by inserting some chases or running around. Production values are first-rate, particularly the snappy lensing of Reynaldo Villalobos who, following his work on Major League and A Bronx Tale, now belongs to Hollywood's top cinematographers.

Most of the ensemble cast is amiably pleasant. In the lead, however, Piven lacks the wild charisma of a John Belushi. And as the naive youngster, Young wears the same wide-eyed, open-mouthed expression throughout the movie.

Like the student revolution films of the l970s (Getting Straight), PCU can't help but succumb to its own bias. Underlying the political activism and separatism is the unified feeling that getting laid may be far more gratifying than protesting.

Political correctness is such a natural topic for satires that you wonder why it has taken so long to hit the big screen. At the same time, given the issue's extensive media coverage, it's not too much to expect from PCU to strut a sharper and nastier edge.
Credits

A Twentieth Century Fox release of a Paul Schiff production. Produced by Paul Schiff. Co-producer, Barry Sabath. Directed by Hart Bochner. Screenplay, Adam Leff and Zak Penn. Camera (DeLuxe, color), Reynaldo Villalobos; editor, Nicholas C. Smith; music, Steve Vai; executive music producer, Ralph Sall; production design, Steven Jordan; art direction, David M. Davis; set decoration, Enrico Campana; costume design, Mary Zophres; sound (Dolby stereo), David Lee; assistant director, Martin Walters; casting, Margery Simkin.

MPAA Rating: Pg-13.
Running time: 79 min.

Cast

Droz…………….Jeremy Piven
Tom………………Chris Young
Gutter……………Jon Favreau
Rand McPherson…….David Spade
Samantha………..Sarah Trigger
Mersh……………..Jake Busey
Garcia-Thompson…Jessica Walter
Himself………..George Clinton