The phrases "eagerly anticipated" and "outrageous teen-sex comedy from MTV Films" are seldom found in the same sentence, but Orange County boasts enough talent on both sides of the camera to boost expectations. Director Jake Kasdan made episodes of the cultishly adored television shows Freaks And Geeks and Undeclared after his enormously promising 1998 film debut Zero Effect, while screenwriter Mike White wrote for Freaks And Geeks and scripted and starred in the supremely creepy 2000 comedy-drama Chuck & Buck. Factor in a cast boasting character actors Jack Black, Catherine O'Hara, Garry Marshall, John Lithgow, Harold Ramis, Lily Tomlin, and Jane Adams, and Orange County suddenly seems less like a recipe for disaster than a can't-miss proposition. Sadly, the film itself feels like a spiritual descendant of Dead Man On Campus, another college-themed comedy that hung a barrage of dispiriting drug, sex, and bodily-function jokes on the flimsiest of comic conceits. Cross-pollinating Campus (which White co-wrote) with How I Got Into College, County stars Colin Hanks as a high-school senior who sees admission to Stanford as his only escape from Orange County, which is apparently surrounded by the same invisible barbed-wire fences that keep earnest teens trapped inside sleepy small towns in countless other coming-of-age movies. Unfairly rejected by Stanford following a transcript mix-up, Hanks sets about getting into the school the hard way, which brings him into contact with an endless parade of phonies, dullards, drunks, and other assorted cretins who don't communicate so much as engage in an epic shouting match. Orange County grows considerably less headache-inducing once Hanks reaches Stanford, as Black scores a few funny moments and the film's comic volume lowers from a siren-like wail to a mere dull roar. Ultimately, however, it lacks even the conviction of its own nastiness. The film ends by suggesting that behind their grating, gargoyle-like façades, Hanks' friends and neighbors are really caring, sincere people, although nearly everything up to that point suggests otherwise.
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If Jesse Armstrong wanted Jeremy Strong to jump in a river, he would have put it in the script