Californian teen Shaun discovers a cult novel on a beach and swiftly exchanges surfing for writing. When his application to prestigious Stanford University gets mistakenly rejected, he and his girlfriend head on a road trip to set things straight; but the
Four years after his notable debut, Zero Effect, Jake Kasdan's second film - in the stale teen high-jinks genre - may appear a strange choice. However, with minimal gross-out quota, Kasdan's sure-footed approach mixes a teen farce and a morality tale.
Skilfully balancing comedic set-pieces with real issues, the film undulates through a screenplay that plays up the genre formula - allowing for gags worthy of the Farrelly brothers - while paying attention to Shaun and Ashley's surprisingly touching emotional trials. While Jack Black's manic (if one-note) stoner is the principal comedy sell, he is easily matched by Catherine O'Hara and John Lithgow as Shaun's demented parents (who themselves are gleefully served by Mike White's zinger-stocked script). Elsewhere, cameos come from a veritable Comedy Hall Of Fame, with Kevin Kline charmingly noble as Shaun's literary hero. As for Hanks Jr., he has winningly inherited Dad's easy charm and affinity for this material.
A refreshing change from misfiring gross-out tat, with a charming lead performance from Tom's boy.