Accepted at first appears to bear the anarchic fingerprints of its off-the-quad forebears, from the legendary (Animal House) to the lackluster (Van Wilder), with a hint of Ghostbusters‘ entrepreneurial pluck. The story centers on one Bartleby Gaines (Justin Long), a charming yet oddly pratfall-prone adolescent con artist who, staring at eight rejected college applications, whips up a fake school with the help of his overachieving bud, Sherman (the nicely dry Jonah Hill). But the illusion is too perfect, and soon, Bartleby has a class of misfits matriculating at his homemade South Harmon Institute of Technology (the acronym, if you’re wondering, is very deliberate), complete with classes like ”Doing Nothing” and ”Blowing S— Up With Your Mind.” Naturally, a showdown brews between the dream-chasing slackers and monolithic, overstructured Harmon University, which breeds nothing but ”stress freaks and caffeine addicts.”
At this point, goofball subversion begins to mosh uncomfortably with sermonizing love-in, and Patch Adams Goes to College nearly breaks out. Accepted’s winning dumbness and breezy bons mots save it from the pit, but one wonders: In an age when a petulant ”It’s hard” excuses the grossest failures, and all of us, the Establishment especially, are rewarded for playing by our own rules, how do you separate the true rebels from the rejects?