We gave it an A
Any movie with Bert Parks singing Bob Dylan’s ”Maggie’s Farm” is, by definition, pretty cool. But this latest effort from writer-director Andrew Bergman, the underappreciated creator of a couple of the sharpest comedies in recent years (The In-Laws, So Fine), is considerably better than cool; The Freshman is the smartest and most slyly amusing American farce in years. The plot — Matthew Broderick is an NYU film student involved with gangsters and a rare- animals scam — is as complicated and absurdist as the best Marx Brothers romps, and Bergman keeps the farcical balls in the air with aplomb throughout. He’s also come up with a succession of memorable characters (Paul Benedict’s pretentious cinema studies prof, B.D. Wong’s pixilated herpetologist) and priceless sight gags (a Komodo dragon casually riding a shopping-mall elevator). As the cream of the jest, he’s handed Marlon Brando the chance to do a wonderfully modulated parody of his famous turn in The Godfather. All in all, you couldn’t ask for a droller 102 minutes. How this one got lost in last summer’s movie shuffle remains a mystery as bafflingly delicious as the secret formula for Orange Julius.