Orange County (2002)


Orange County is a 2002 American comedy film starring Colin Hanks and Jack Black. It was released on January 11, 2002. The movie was distributed by Paramount Pictures and produced by MTV Films and Scott Rudin. The movie was directed by Jake Kasdan and written by Mike White.


Shaun Brumder (Colin Hanks) is a teenager from affluent Orange County, California. Although bright and intelligent, he initially has very little interest in education or studying, instead trying to lead a carefree SoCal lifestyle of surfing, drinking and partying. A turning point comes when Shaun's best friend Lonny (Bret Harrison) is killed in a surfing accident, causing him to begin rethinking his own life. One day, he finds a novel on the beach by the author Marcus Skinner, which quickly inspires him to become a writer. Upon learning that Skinner is an English professor at Stanford University, Shaun makes it his goal to attend Stanford and study under him, seeing it as an opportunity to escape from his comfortable, but extremely vapid and superficial life in Orange County. Shaun dramatically improves himself academically, obtaining high grades and SAT scores as well as becoming the president of his graduating class. Due to some (rather dubious) advice from his guidance counselor, Ms. Cobb (Lily Tomlin), who tells him that he is a "shoo-in" for acceptance, Shaun applies only to Stanford. This severely backfires as Shaun later finds out that he is rejected from Stanford, ironically because Ms. Cobb mixed up his academic transcript with that of a much less intelligent student. In an attempt to help him, Shaun's animal rights activist girlfriend Ashley (Schuyler Fisk) successfully convinces her friend Tanya (Carly Pope) to allow Shaun to be interviewed at his home by her grandfather, who is on "the board at Stanford" so he can explain his situation. Unfortunately, the antics displayed during the interview by his dysfunctional family members, including his alcoholic and emotionally fragile mother Cindy (Catherine O'Hara) and his dim-witted stoner older brother Lance (Jack Black), cause Shaun's interviewers to walk out in anger and disgust. Shaun even reaches out to his wealthy father Bud (John Lithgow), who had left his wife and family to marry a much younger woman (Leslie Mann), pleading him to donate money to Stanford in order to increase his chances of being accepted. However, Bud disapproves of Shaun's dream of being a writer and instead scolds him to follow a more practical career path, such as business. In a last ditch effort to get him accepted, Ashley and Lance convince Shaun to drive to Palo Alto and directly plead his case to the Stanford admissions director Don Durkett (Harold Ramis). They accompany him on the trip. By the time the trio arrive on campus, it is nighttime and the admissions building is already closed. While Lance distracts (and seduces) the secretary on duty in the office, Shaun and Ashley steal the address to Durkett's house. They arrive at his home, where Shaun shows him his real high school transcript. Although Durkett is impressed with Shaun's credentials, he is reluctant to allow him acceptance as it is already very late in the admissions process. After much groveling, Shaun finally convinces Durkett to go back to his office in the admissions building and give it a second thought. However, disaster strikes again when Durkett, who has a headache, asks Ashley for an aspirin. She accidentally mixes up the bottles and gives him one of Lance's drugs instead, causing him to become high. Things go from bad to worse when Shaun and Ashley arrive at the admissions building, only to see that it is engulfed in a fire (caused by Lance setting a piece of paper on fire that eventually spreads through the building). They abandon the hallucinating Durkett and flee the scene to avoid being arrested. At this point, Ashley finally becomes frustrated with Shaun's obsession of only getting into Stanford. She points out his selfishness, as he never gave any thought into the fact that if he were to attend Stanford, they would have to be separated and it could mean the end of their relationship. She then angrily leaves Shaun on his own. Depressed, Shaun wanders the campus and meets a female student who invites him to a frat party. There, he witnesses the behavior of the Stanford coeds, disappointed to learn that they are just as vapid and ditzy as the girls he knew from Orange County. After leaving the party with a more cynical view of college, Shaun, by chance, runs into Professor Skinner (Kevin Kline) and is invited to his office to chat. Skinner is amused with Shaun's belief that he must study and work in a highly intelligent environment in order to become successful, pointing out that many famous authors such as James Joyce and William Faulkner grew up in places that were not intellectually stimulating but still became great writers. Having an epiphany, Shaun realizes his previous misguided intentions and seeks out Ashley to apologize to her. After catching up with her just in time (as she was about to hook up with a fraternity brother at a party), the two also pick up Lance (who was still hiding from the police) and drive home. Back in Orange County, Shaun's parents seek out each other in how to deal with Shaun's problem and end up reconciling, realizing that they are much happier together than with their respective new spouses. They also conclude that they have not been very good parents to Shaun and Lance and, in an attempt to make amends, Bud donates enough money to Stanford for the construction of a brand new building (presumably to replace the one that Lance burned down); this action gets Shaun accepted into Stanford. Although Shaun is initially ecstatic to learn this, he then remembers the things that both Ashley and Professor Skinner had told him. Finally, he decides to stay home with Ashley and his family because he loves them too much to leave them. In addition, he begins to view living in Orange County as a positive influence for his writing subject matter rather than as a detriment. The film ends with Shaun going surfing with his friends again, the first time he does so since Lonny died.