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Freshman Orientation

Writer-director Ryan Shiraki's tyro film, "Freshman Orientation," frolics through the political minefields of a typical college campus. Pic's straight hero, a foolhardy college dude, reckons he'll play along with a cute gal's false assumption that he's gay, leading to a politically incorrect but exhausted social satire on sexual and social expectations.

With:
Clay - Sam Huntington Marjorie - Marla Sokoloff Matt - Mike Erwin Jessica - Heather Matarazzo Amanda - Kaitlin Doubleday Tazwell - Bryce Johnson Serena - Jud Tylor Very Drunk Chick - Rachel Dratch Rodney - John Goodman

With intermittently amusing glee, writer-director Ryan Shiraki’s tyro film, “Freshman Orientation,” frolics through the political minefields of a typical college campus. Pic’s straight hero, a foolhardy college dude, reckons he’ll play along with a cute gal’s false assumption that he’s gay, leading to a politically incorrect but ultimately exhausted social satire on sexual and social expectations. Distrib Regent may try to target gay auds, but could find resistance, given the pic’s guy-gets-girl happy ending. Broader marketing pitch in vid may be able to grab a hungry college crowd.

Clay (Sam Huntington) views college life as one long sexual adventure before his boring adult years, but he soon finds that picking up chicks isn’t exactly like walking through the produce section. When his first roomie accidentally kicks the bucket, he enlists the far more subdued Matt (Mike Erwin) as his new companion, while fending off the verbal slings of ex-g.f. and current lesbian punkette Marjorie (Marla Sokoloff).

Shiraki’s script cleverly dovetails Clay’s interest in sorority gal Amanda (Kaitlin Doubleday) with Amanda’s mission — arranged by mega-bitchy sorority leader Serena (Jud Tylor) — to woo and then dump various “loser” guys. Amanda’s target candidate is supposed to be gay, and through a comic mixup stirred by Amanda’s potty-mouthed pal Jessica (Heather Matarazzo), Amanda mistakenly believes Clay fits the bill. Sensing a choice opportunity to get cozy with this hottie, Clay plays along and seriously gets into his new persona.

Pic good-naturedly follows Clay through his somewhat unsentimental gay education, greatly boosted by jolly gay barkeep Rodney (John Goodman, having a fine old time in colorful support).

But the comedy starts sputtering as the truth about Clay’s sexual preference and Amanda’s ruse surface. It’s as if Shiraki ran out of ideas and hoped his cast would carry things. Pic lurches from incident to incident, leading to a silly knock-down-drag-out between the college radicals and conservative Greeks, with a final section that’s thoroughly out of fuel.

Huntington displays a real eye and ear for funny timing and behavior, and charms with a bad-boy glint. As a confused young man who comes out of the closet, Erwin’s Matt sometimes feels as if he’s walked in from another movie, while Sokoloff and Matarazzo have a ball with their zinger lines. Playing the aptly named Very Drunk Chick, Rachel Dratch is a lot less funny than she usually is, but proves that she’s a comic thesp with no shame.

Production package mimics the bright look of studio teen and college comedies, but at a noticeably lower pricetag. Music selections abound in cleverness, ranging from re-dos of Janis Ian to Britney Spears.

Freshman Orientation

Production: A Regent Entertainment release of an Element Films presentation of a Greenblatt-Janollari Studios/Persistent Entertainment production in association with LIFT Prods. Produced by Adam Rosenfelt, Dan Halsted, Judd Payne, Matthew Rhodes, Malcolm Petal. Executive producers, Robert Greenblatt, David Janollari, Sam Nazarian. Co-producers, Marc Schaberg, Randy Winograd. Directed, written by Ryan Shiraki.

Crew: Camera (color), Amelia Vincent; editor, David Codron; music, tomandandy; music supervisor, Suzanne Coffman; production designer, Frank Zito III; art director, John Johnson; costume designer, Liz Staub; sound (Dolby Digital), Skip Godwin; supervising sound editor, Barney Cabral; assistant director, Corky Cronin; casting, Roger Mussenden, Elizabeth Torres. Reviewed at Outfest, Los Angeles, July 15, 2005. Running time: 92 MIN.

With: Clay - Sam Huntington Marjorie - Marla Sokoloff Matt - Mike Erwin Jessica - Heather Matarazzo Amanda - Kaitlin Doubleday Tazwell - Bryce Johnson Serena - Jud Tylor Very Drunk Chick - Rachel Dratch Rodney - John Goodman

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