Tom Green's talent doesn't ripen with age

Friday, September 13, 2002

Put a thousand chimps in a room with typewriters, the old saying goes, and one of them will manage to peck out a script to "Hamlet."

There's a new Canadian variation to that joke. Put Tom Green in enough movies, and eventually something funny will happen. "Stealing Harvard" offers more evidence that this hasn't happened, yet. But chimp lovers still keep the faith.

Green was recently handed back his ring by bride Drew Barrymore and handed his head for attempting to star in his own movies � "Freddie Got Fingered" set some sort of standard for inept crudity.

Thus, Green's just the chief supporting player in "Stealing Harvard," a banal Jason Lee comedy about a nice guy who turns to crime to try and earn the money to send a poor niece to Harvard. Green hams it up in a frantic effort to electroshock this farce to life. He never succeeds, but there's just a hint of promise in his manic shtick, his offbeat double-takes and his physically fearless pratfalls. If Green ever hooks up with the "Dumb and Dumber" Farrelly brothers, watch out.

Here, Green and Lee are in the hands of Bruce McCulloch, the third or fourth funniest member of Canada's Kids in the Hall comedy troupe. And McCulloch is a walking primer on why movie reviews often plug a director's previous credits.

McCulloch made "Dog Park," which went virtually unreleased. He made "Superstar," which should have been burned. He still points to "Brain Candy" as a cherished credit. He may be a funny guy, but he has no business directing. He has yet to make a film comedy that is even remotely competent.

Lee has settled a little too comfortably into his bland, put-upon nice guy persona. The movies already have a Bill Pullman, thank you.

"Stealing Harvard" isn't grand theft. It's not even petty pilfering. All it steals is the viewer's time � one hour and 23 minutes of it.