May 19, 2014 by billysparrow
Released: May 19, 1989
Starring: Corey Parker, Lara Flynn Boyle, Anthony Edwards, Charles Rocket, Finn Carter
“How I Got Into College” is one of those ’80s comedies that I’m pretty confident I like but can’t really tell you why. There’s nothing all that spectacular about it and the jokes are fine but not particularly memorable. It is the type of movie that would receive full prominence in my imaginary book “Mr. 2 1/2 Stars,” featuring reviews of the many things I find neither spectacular nor awful but yet I still think of fondly.
And so it was with a certain amount of excitement that I put the VHS of “How I Got Into College” (taped off of HBO and paired with “Quick Change”) and sat down to watch the movie for the first time in a long time. And I came away with just about the same feelings as I had going in. It is a pretty good movie, featuring some good actors and enough laughs to sustain one’s attention for its 87 minutes.
The key to the likability of the movie is definitely the performance of Corey Parker as future college student Marlon Browne, an average student desperate to get into the academically revered Ramsey College because that’s where the girl he’s had a crush on his whole life, Jessica Kailo (Lara Flynn Boyle), wants to go. Parker is so likable that I’m somewhat baffled that this was his last big starring role in a movie (he has had somewhat steady TV work–including a recent episode of “Nashville,” which I somehow missed him in–and teaches acting fairly extensively according to his website, including an upcoming class on NYC, so maybe we can hang out later this summer and I can pester him with questions about why he isn’t famous and then become friends for life). He is just the right amount of sweet in the role and makes Marlon a character both eminently likable and easy to root for.
Aside from Parker, there are a lot of other great actors in the movie, but in bit parts where they don’t get to do all that much. Brian Doyle-Murray, who is never, ever bad, plays Ramsey’s football coach but only gets a few scenes. The similarly reliable Philip Baker Hall is his usually expertly droll self as the outgoing dean of Ramsey. And there’s also the great Curtis Armstrong (aka Booger from “Revenge of the Nerds,” or, in my world, Ack Ack from “One Crazy Summer,” which was also directed by “How I Got Into College”‘s Savage Steve Holland). He only has one scene, but he makes it count.
And the movie also features three former “Saturday Night Live” cast members, as Charles Rocket (probably best known for being fired soon after saying “fuck” on an episode of “SNL” but pretty good here as the smarmy villain on Ramsey’s admissions committee and main foil of post-“Top Gun” Anthony Edwards’ Kip Hammett and his girlfriend Nina Sachie, played by Finn Carter), Nora Dunn, and Phil Hartman all appear in fairly important roles. Dunn and Hartman play Bauer and Benedek, who run a college prep course that Marlon and a few others in his high school attend. Hartman is another guy who is never not funny, and Dunn does a fine job, too, and even reads an issue of “Pro Wrestling Illustrated” in one scene, which, I must admit, provided me with a sudden jolt of excitement. It’s fair to say that “Pro Wrestling Illustrated” was my favorite magazine growing up and might have provided me more joy than anything else in the world during my formative years. Explains a lot, doesn’t it?
And speaking of wrestling and formative experiences, as I have mentioned before in my storied blogging career, as a child I was shoved into the ample bosom of Queen Kong, who appears in several scenes in “How I Got Into College,” at a wrestling convention at Manhattan’s Penta Hotel. I remember thinking that was odd (I’m gonna guess it was a few years before this movie was released…maybe 1987, which would have put me at 10 years old). But it’s certainly stayed in my memory. In fact, I’ve just spent several minutes perusing the Internet for news of how my ample-bosomed pal is doing. It turns out not great; she’s in a wheelchair as a result of a degenerative disc disease, according to a VICE interview. That same interview details the Queen’s storied career, which she claims includes inventing phone sex. Good for her!
Anyway, other than updates on a former G.L.O.W. wrestler, the Internet is providing me with very little to show you in terms of “How I Got Into College.” I suspect it’s a largely forgotten movie by the general public (IMDB puts its box office total at about $1.6 million, which seems to indicate something less than success), and I can’t say I entirely blame the public for this oversight. But Mr. 2 1/2 Stars here still thinks it’s good enough to be worth a watch, if only to remind you of how unnecessarily stressful and exquisitely absurd the college admissions process was (and, I suppose, still is, though I found it amazing to read that my alma mater no longer even requires an SAT–or ACT–score at all). And with some pretty solid performances highlighted by Corey Parker, “How I Got Into College,” while not essential viewing by any means, is a movie good enough to hold its own 25 years later.