Film Review by Kam Williams
Boy Wonder Befriends Late Bloomer in Odd Couple at College Comedy
On the drive with his mother (Parker Posey) to his new school, precocious Eli Pettifog (Alex Wolff) is fretting about fitting-in with his classmates. After all, it’s not the 13 year-old’s first day of high school, but rather of college.
The clown-haired boy genius is entering Whittman College, an elite institution catering to students not quite bright enough for the Ivy League. Eli had hoped to attend Harvard, and is still bitter that he had to settle for his safety school.
Upon moving into the dorm, he makes the acquaintance of Leo Searly (Brendan Fraser), a fellow freshman living across the hall. Long in the tooth Leo is 41, and has belatedly matriculated less to crack the books than to recapture his fading youth.
Nevertheless, these two fish out of water forge a fast friendship as they make the awkward adjustment to campus life. Early on, we find the pair partying, with late bloomer Leo generally making a fool of himself while prepubescent Eli’s seduced by an attractive blonde (Elisabeth Hower) after being plied with alcohol.
The plot bifurcates and sobers a bit when Eli takes an interest in an eccentric townie (Julia Garner) his own age and Leo’s long-estranged daughter (Lizzy DeClement) shows up unexpectedly. But HairBrained is at its most inspired from the point Eli joins the trivia team representing his alma mater in the Collegiate Mastermind competition against other top schools like Stanford, Michigan and Princeton.
Not surprisingly, all roads lead to a big showdown with Harvard. Thus, the burning question becomes whether the pint-sized brainiac will be able prove the exclusive school made a mistake by sending him a rejection letter.
Far more quirky than it is comical, HairBrained is an uneven, unlikely-buddies flick that’s only funny in fits and starts. Think a poor man’s cross of Napoleon Dynamite (2004) and Old School (2003) where a coming-of-age tale merges with a midlife crisis.
Good (2 stars)
Rated PG-13 for sexuality, profanity, nudity, crude humor, and teen smoking, drug use and alcohol consumption
Running time: 97 minutes
Distributor: Vertical Entertainment