NATIONAL LAMPOON PRESENTS: DORM DAZE (DVD)

3.5 Stars
Year Released: 2004
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 97 minutes
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Forty-five minutes into “Dorm Daze” I was utterly convinced of two things.

First, “Dorm Daze” is a funny movie. A very funny movie, in parts.

Second, I will never be able to convince anyone of this fact.

So the natural question is – why? If the film is, in fact, funny, then why wouldn’t people want to watch it?

Well, because “Dorm Daze” asks a lot of the viewer.

I’ll explain.

Most comedies generally play to a particular kind of comedy crowd. On the one hand, you’ve got your stupid comedy. The kind of stuff you’ll find in movies like “Spaceballs,” where a character will call out “Comb the desert!” and in the next scene, someone is running a massive comb through sand.

There’s nothing wrong with this kind of comedy. It’s silly, and harmless, and taken to, say, a Monty Python level, it can reach genius levels.

On the other side of the equation are the intelligent comedies. The jokes don’t always come right to you. You’ve got to think about what’s being said, you have to have enough knowledge of the subject at hand to get the joke, and most importantly, you have to pay attention as the images and words blaze on by.

This kind of comedy is something of a rarity today – you’ll generally find it on American Movie classics when the words “Billy Wilder” blaze by your eyeballs. Some of Woody Allen’s best work also slides into this category.

But “Dorm Daze” takes a very odd path, and attempts to cut right down the center of these two genres. The results are something of a mixed bag.

On the smart side, we have the plot. Or rather, we have many, many plots, involving approximately 13 major characters. Not three major characters – the hero, the villain, and the sidekick, along with ten other actors with ten lines each. Not five important characters – hero, his sidekick, villain, his sidekick, and the person they’re fighting over, along with eight other actors with eight lines each.

Thirteen characters. Thirteen characters with names and attributes that are important, and must be remembered in order to make it all the way to the end of the film.

More importantly, you have to follow thirteen characters for a full 97 minutes. Miss a minute, and you’ll miss an important plot thread. Well, okay, there’s a bit where you can run to the kitchen for a snack, but we’ll come back to that.

The plot primarily revolves around three major cases of mistaken identity. A prostitute and a foreign exchange student who share the same name; two handbags, one that’s filled with money and the other that’s a gift from a grandmother; and the love notes that manage to end up in three sets of wrong hands.

And that still leaves large chunks of story out of the picture. In other words, this film requires some heavy cerebral lifting.

On the dumb side, we have… well, I hesitate to say the characters are dumb (though a few are) but much of the dialogue and situations are, if not dumb, then at least pretty silly. If you don’t think “This is America, and I can get a whore if I want to,” is funny, then you aren’t going to enjoy this movie at all.

But then there are moments of odd sophistication. One of the subplots takes place almost entirely in a dorm room that seems to be ripped from the pages of “The Maltese Falcon.” It’s obviously meant as a joke, but you have to get the joke first.

As for the part you can skip, feel free to drop out during the three-minute dream sequence, which so obviously was slotted into the film to add a nudity quotient that I’m shocked something didn’t flash across the bottom of the screen.

What makes it even more strange is the fact that there’s an entire DVD extra dedicated to it, as though it were the comic centerpiece to the film, instead of the throwaway sequence it is.

As for the rest of the extras, well, they’re of about the same quality. The deleted scenes were dropped because they furthered the plot not at all. The commentary reveals a few interesting factoids but mostly consists of the directors patting themselves and their actors on the back for a job well done.

Also included is a single episode of “National Lampoon’s Master Debaters,” which is about as funny as it sounds. The only real highlight of watching Danielle Fishel and Tatyana Ali debate whether “Boy Meets World” or “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” was the better TV show is Fishel’s impressive memorization abilities. She never once glances to her notes nor appears to be looking at a teleprompter, which is much more impressive than it sounds on paper.

There’s a gag reel, as well, for those of you who find a bunch of missed lines amusing.

It’s difficult to identify the intended audience of Dorm Daze. The film has no major stars in it, but that helps it, since no one character registers as more important than another. It was shot cheaply and quickly, but it was released by MGM with National Lampoon above the title.

The film has a high-speed, intricate plot but is filled with jokes that generally register as silly rather than intellectual. It features a few moments so odd as to be cringe-worthy (they break the fourth wall on three different occasions, none to comic effect).

But overall, the film is a lot of fun, and has a twist ending that makes the film well worth getting to the end.



Posted on October 27, 2004 in Reviews by
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