MRR Review: "HairBrained"

Photo Credit: Vertical Entertainment

Rating: PG-13

Length: 106 minutes

Release Date: February 28, 2014

Directed by: Billy Kent

Genre: Comedy


Although many low-budget comedies fall flat with poor acting and mediocre jokes, "HairBrained" is a pleasant surprise. This film offers a glimpse into the pains and joys of college life. When a young genius named Eli Pettifog is rejected by Harvard, he stumbles upon the loser-level Whittman College. He meets an older student named Leo Searly, and the two form a unique friendship. Featuring the acting talents of Alex Wolff and Brendan Fraser, this comedy is sure to keep audiences entertained with true-to-life college situations and plenty of raw humor.

Eli Pettifog (Alex Wolff) is a 14-year-old genius who is a master of trivia, and his ultimate goal is to land a spot at the revered Harvard University. When he is rejected, the messy-haired teen somehow ends up at the third-rate Whittman College, a Harvard wannabe named the "37th Best Small College in America" known more for its partying than its academics. His mother Sheila Pettifog (Parker Posey) drops him off, and he begins his college career. Eli is not happy with his situation, and he is a constant victim of bullying on campus due to his mass of unkempt hair and superior intellect. He soon decides to make the best of his new college career by joining the failing Collegiate Mastermind Team, where he displays his brilliance by answering most of the trivia questions himself and acing them all. 

As Eli does this, he unwittingly undermines Leo Searly, a nonrecovering gambling addict who had placed some unwise bets on the trivia team. Leo is a 41-year-old student whose whole world has imploded, leading him to fulfill his long-held dream of attaining a higher education. When Eli and Leo meet, the two outcasts soon become good friends. The two embark on a number of crazy collegiate adventures of partying and beer drinking. During this time, Eli also catches the attention of a pretty college student named Shauna (Julia Garner). Eli soon begins to despise Harvard, eventually leading a pathetic college bowling team to the finals. The opponent is none other than the cocky, power-hungry bowling team of Harvard University.

Director Billy Kent, known for his highly sexual independent film "The Oh in Ohio," creates a unique story that glorifies the fun of college life, faces the reality of not achieving dreams and emphasizes the importance of friendship. Kent collaborates with Sarah Bird to create a film that is both believable and entertaining

"HairBrained" is a traditional collegiate comedy, following in the footsteps of films such as "Harold and Maude" and the infamous "Rushmore." It includes all of the classic elements of such films, including crazy antics, over-the-top drinking and shocking acts that could only be committed by college students, such as urinating on the lawn of Harvard. However, this film approaches the genre with a twist as it follows an underdog-turned-star who uses his newfound prestige to gain revenge against the former college of his dreams. "HairBrained" is also a buddy film, focusing its time on the unconventional friendship between Eli and Leo. The two have strong chemistry, and this leads to some heartwarming moments of male bonding.

The film is as truthful in its humor as it is quirky, showcasing a number of situations that ring true to current and former college students. Eli's search for identity and Leo's midlife crisis bring two opposite ends of the spectrum together for entertaining character interactions to which nearly every viewer can relate. The film also sticks to its PG-13 rating without watering down its jokes, providing plenty of side-aching fun for the audience without the explicit sexual content and overused cussing common in other collegiate comedies.

"HairBrained" has its shining moments, but it also falls short in a few respects. The plot is predictable at times, and some of the themes and relationships are underdeveloped. For instance, Eli does not seem to learn many important lessons throughout the film, and his relationship with Fraser's character feels shallow at times. Some of the most talented actors in the film, including Parker Posey and Julia Garner, have small roles that do not give them adequate opportunity to show their abilities. Wolff and Fraser's characters are fairly developed, but some of the supporting characters are a little too stereotypical. Despite these setbacks, the film is still thoroughly entertaining, keeping audiences laughing all the way.

If moviegoers are looking for a fun night of comedy, "HairBrained" is a great choice. It may not be the comedy of the year, but it provides some hilarious situations and jokes around every corner. It lacks some character development and plot depth, but its lighthearted humor quickly overshadows this, providing a great experience for viewers.

Rating: 3 out of 5