Dead Man on Campus [1998]

Well, it's a good idea. Dead Man on Campus had the potential to be a classic dark comedy: Two students at a prestigious university are flunking out; however, due to a provision in the school's charter, if they had a roommate who committed suicide, they'd both get straight A's as a form of reparation for grief and trauma. So, to stay in school, they seek out the most depressed student on campus and transfer him into their three-person dorm room. Unfortunately, rather than satirizing the real issues--academic narrow-mindedness, parental pressure, the obsessiveness of late adolescence--the movie is a compilation of frat-boy clich├ęs and jokes that want to be in bad taste but are actually quite tame. The leads (Tom Everett Scott and Mark-Paul Gosselaar) are pleasant and the soundtrack (produced by the Dust Brothers) has some very hip selections, but after a snappy opening-credit sequence, the movie stumbles along, aimless and sluggish. Alyson Hannigan (American Pie, Willow on TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer) has a small role and is her charming geeky self. --Bret Fetzer

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