Back-To-School Month: "PCU" Review

Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

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Back-To-School Month: "PCU" Review

Rating: PG-13 (language, drug content, some sensuality)
Length: 79 minutes
Release Date: Apr. 29, 1994
Directed by: Hart Bochner
Genre: Comedy

Tom (Chris Young) is an impressionable high school senior visiting Port Chester University, which is the PCU of the movie title. He hopes to attend Port Chester in the fall, so he is spending the weekend there to check the school out and see if it's a good fit. He gets much more than he bargained for when he meets Droz (Jeremy Piven), the leader of the Pit, which is a frat house of sorts where all the school's outcasts live. In the case of Port Chester, the outcasts are actually normal Joes who don't fit into PCU's politically correct climate.

Droz takes him across campus to show him the highly charged political climate. Tom meets the Womynists, who are shielding one of their own from her ex-boyfriend. Then there is the campus vegetarian group, who go around trying to guilt or force people not to eat meat. The extremism of these groups scares poor Tom, but Droz just shakes his head and dreams of a day where everyone could put their differences aside. One person who can't put differences aside is President Garcia-Thompson (Jessica Walter), who hates the Pit and all of its residents. She enlists a campus conservative group to look into the house and see if there are any violations she could use to close it down. She gets the opportunity she needs and promptly shows up on the front lawn of the Pit to give them a $7,000 bill that has to be paid almost immediately or else everyone has to move out.

Nobody has that kind of cash, but Droz doesn't let this deter him. He hatches a plan to have the party to end all parties, complete with beer and good, live music. He figures if they collect a cover charge at the door, they will be able to make enough to pay off the bill. The problem will be getting all the people on campus to set aside their differences long enough to party together. Another problem arises when the Pit's resident stoner, Gutter (Jon Favreau), gets so stoned that he forgets to pick up the beer, which could spell the end of the Pit forever.

"PCU" was released in 1994, a year when political correctness had become a part of everyday life in the United States. The film may take the movement to a comedic extreme, but it isn't completely off the mark regarding just how guarded people were about their speech, lest they offend someone. In this way, it is a snapshot of what life was like at that very specific time and place. This type of movie usually doesn't age very well, but "PCU" doesn't seem to have lost anything in the translation nearly twenty years after its initial release. Political correctness still exists today, even if the movement has tapered off considerably and isn't quite as ardent as it was when the film was originally shot. Even people who were just kids or perhaps weren't even born in 1994 can probably relate to at least some of what is going on in the film, especially if they are or have recently been in college.

Co-writers Zak Penn and Adam Leff both attended Wesleyan University, which could easily stand in for Port Chester University in the film. Penn and Leff are obviously writing about their own experiences in college, which implies they would likely have been members of the Pit rather than one of the myriad of activist groups on campus. The two scribes clearly paid attention to how different groups related to each other on campus and turned that view into a slick, funny satire that occasionally goes beyond funny to be absolutely hilarious. The script isn't the only reason why this film works as well as it does, though. Piven, who was a relative unknown at the time, really hits all the right notes as Droz, the leader of the Pit. When he goes off on a rant, the audience can practically see the future Ari Gold from his hit HBO series "Entourage."

The film will inevitably be compared to "Animal House," and not without reason. There are quite a few similarities between the films, including the fact that both films feature loveable losers who are just trying to talk some sense into the mad people around them. Both feature dumpy houses that are at risk of being taken from said loveable losers, only to be saved later. However, "PCU" isn't going for just fun, it is going for biting satire and criticism of political correctness, and it succeeds wildly at both.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Tags: PCU