CAPSULE: Billy Kent directs a script he co-wrote with Sarah Bird. A wild-haired child genius at age thirteen is admitted to party school Whittman College and declares war on the school that rejected him, Harvard. The film builds to the big game, but for once it is not sports, but academic competition. HAIRBRAINED feels like a throwback to college comedies of 1980s cable TV. It is from much the same team who made the lukewarm sex comedy THE OH IN OHIO. Rating: low +1 (-4 to +4) or 5/10
Genius thirteen-year old Eli Pettifog (played by Alex Wolff) must be one of the world's youngest college freshmen. Sadly, he is a freshman at Whittman College instead of his first choice school Harvard. On his first day he meets and involuntarily becomes friends with one of the world's oldest college freshmen Leo Searly (Brendan Fraser). Whittman is a party school, and while Eli is there for the school, Leo is there for the party. Eli will probably not do too much partying while his hairdo looks like a cross-mating between Albert Einstein's hair and Angela Davis's. Eli hatches a plan to get revenge on Harvard for rejecting him. He will captain Whittman's academic competition team and lead them to trounce Harvard's team.
The characters of the film seem a bit much like cliches from ANIMAL HOUSE and made-for-cable college films. There are the students who live for drinking, rocking, drugs, and sex. There are the high- born patricians who look uneasy in the filthy presence of the real people. Of course the film needs a bully or two. And what would it be without coeds who are willing and eager. In the middle of this is Eli Pettifog, the whiz kid freshman who makes himself the hero of his college by leading the Collegiate Mastermind Team to victory. (Think G.E. College Bowl.)
Writers Kent, Bird, and Adam Wierzbianski seem to confuse having knowledge of academic subjects with being good at trivia games. In the competition they seem more likely to be asked what high school the Iron Chef went to than about the purpose of the Diet of Worms.
In the film Fraser seems to have more personality than everyone else combined. Though the character he plays seems almost a necessity for a college party film--the party animal who never studies--he has enough personality to go beyond the script and save some of the slower moments of the film. A little too much time is spent watching the Whittman students have a good time that do not translate to good times for the audience. There are several familiar character actors dropped into sadly inconsequential roles. Actors like Parker Posey, Fred Melamed, and Austin Pendleton are present but are never used to their full potential.
This is a more modest film than those that usually get full theatrical releases. It will get some release February 28, 2014. It has its moments, but lacks any real punch overall. I rate the film a low +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 5/10.
I can attest that the two mathematics questions asked were correctly answered.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1426363/combined
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/hairbrained/
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2014 Mark R. Leeper