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Dustin Putman

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Sorority Boys (2002)
3 Stars

Directed by Wally Wolodarsky
Cast: Barry Watson, Michael Rosenbaum, Harland Williams, Melissa Sagemiller, Heather Matarazzo, Tony Denman, Brad Beyer, Kathryn Stockwood, Yvonne Scio, Bree Turner, Omar Benson Miller, Kerri Higuchi, Greg Coolidge
2002 – 94 minutes
Rated: Rated R (for crude sexual content, nudity, language, and some drug use).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, March 23, 2002.

"Sorority Boys," directed by Wally Wolodarsky, is one of the most joyful college-set comedies to come around in some time. Sort of a cross between "Some Like It Hot" and "Tootsie," with a large helping of "National Lampoon's Animal House" lunacy thrown in for good measure, the key to the film's success is not its raunchiness, but its well-meaning sweetness underneath. It is easy to make a dumbed-down, gross-out comedy (2002's "Slackers" and 2001's "Tomcats" come instantly to mind), but "Sorority Boys" avoids shallowness by reaching for the more inspired heights of "American Pie" and "American Pie 2."

When three popular, womanizing friends--Dave (Barry Watson), Adam (Michael Rosenbaum), and Doofer (Harland Williams)--are thrown out of their Kappa Omicron Kappa (KOK) house after being falsely accused of stealing the fraternity's money, they are left without a place to stay. After posing as women to get back into the house to get the tape that will incriminate the frat's president, Spence (Brad Beyer), they are mistaken for pledges of the looked-down-upon sorority Delta Omega Gamma (DOG). After literally landing on the doorstep of the DOG's house and taken in by the group of likable, if outlandish, sisters, Dave, Adam, and Doofer become alter-egos Daisy, Adina, and Roberta.

With a roof over their heads and guaranteed scholarships, the guys quickly become friends with the sorority, all the while quickly learning the perils and pitfalls of posing as women. Meanwhile, Dave (as Daisy) starts to fall for DOG's strong-willed president, Leah (Melissa Sagemiller), unbeknownst to her that her new female best friend is also her male study partner for their Women's Studies class.

Cleverly written by Joe Jarvis and Greg Coolidge, "Sorority Boys" makes the most of its wacky premise with one hilarious scene following the next. While Daisy, Adina, and Roberta are clearly not women, no one thinks twice about their gender and, therefore, neither does the viewer. Actors Barry Watson (1999's "Teaching Mrs. Tingle"), Michael Rosenbaum (1998's "Urban Legend"), and Harland Williams (2001's "Freddy Got Fingered") do the type of remarkable comedic work that is really worth noting. They are also never afraid to look foolish at the expense of a funny moment, and their courageousness only makes their characters more endearing and believable.

The comedy in "Sorority Boys" covers all of the bases of present-day raunchy humor, including erections, nudity, ejaculations, dildos, abnormal hair growth. What is surprising is the willingness of director Wolodarsky and screenwriters Jarvis and Coolidge to also write witty, fast-paced, and quotable dialogue, as well as never forget that sometimes the funniest moments can come from the subtle background action in shots. Amidst everything is a nicely executed message about acceptance and tolerance that could do any teenage viewer some good, and never feels saccharine.

Also a pleasant change from the norm of raucous college comedies is the sensitive, fair treatment of the DOG sisters. Despite the obviousness of their sorority's initials and their exaggerated first impressions, they soon are developed into real people with real feelings, as they show Dave, Adam, and Doofer how shallow their lives have been up to this point. Melissa Sagemiller (2001's "Soul Survivors"), as Dave's love interest, Leah, and the lovely Heather Matarazzo (2001's "The Princess Diaries"), as the shrilly-voiced Katie, give the type of strong supporting performances one rarely finds in a genre picture of this sort.

Just as the movie starts to get a little too silly in its third act, set on a cruise ship, it comes back in time for a crowd-pleasing finish. "Sorority Boys" is a rarity in today's world: like "American Pie" or 2002's "Orange County," it is a teen comedy that is funny enough and smart enough to have real crossover appeal to other demographics who will be able to relate with and enjoy it just as much as anyone else. With a lot of bigger, more prestigious motion pictures opening in the coming weeks, don't let "Sorority Boys" slip through the cracks. It is one of the best times I've had at the movies all year.

©2002 by Dustin Putman

Dustin Putman