A 13-year-old kid is too smart for high school, so he goes to college. Not only does this kid have a big brain, but he also has big hair – hence the title, “HairBrained.” If that title has you rolling on the floor with laughter, this may be the comedy for you. If you cringed at that title, you will most likely cringe during the rest of the movie, which opens in limited theaters on Feb. 28. For the record, if you didn’t see the grade or star rating, the Chico Movie Examiner falls under the latter category.
No, this highly intelligent kid doesn’t end up at Harvard; he ends up at Whitman, a liberal arts college. But his dream is to be at Harvard, which, unfortunately, rejected him.
Here at Whitman, Eli Pettifog (Alex Wolff) tries to fit in, but being a freshman, he constantly gets harassed by the older students. The experience becomes an interesting one, when Eli befriends a 41-year-old undergraduate freshman (Brendan Fraser), becomes attracted to a young 15-year-old girl named Shauna (Julia Garner), and gets hit on by a junior (Elisabeth Hower), whose boyfriend keeps messing with him.
Eli discovers that people from Harvard are showing up to his college for a quiz show called the Collegiate Mastermind. He roots on Harvard, and not his school. But he discovers that the people at Harvard are punks. He finds himself on the Whitman Warring Hares team and travelling with them to compete in the Collegiate Mastermind. Maybe this college isn’t that bad after all.
Sure, Eli has a big brain, but some of the questions asked during this competition are out of this world. One asks him to name all the states in which Bruce Springsteen was not born. For those wondering, Springsteen was born in New Jersey, so Alex had to name off the other 49 states. Yes, this is a comedy, but isn’t that calling for a bit much?
You could say that “HairBrained” lives up to its name by being an asinine comedy whose attempt at a clever title falls just as flat as the jokes featured here. This has all the makings of every coming-of-age movie, from that awkward first kiss to discovering the friends around you. It just doesn’t have any charm to go along with it.
Director Billy Kent feels the need to add the most inappropriate humor following certain scenes. That awkward kiss transitions to an advertisement about a course on wanting to be a lesbian. It happens again with an advertisement about Thanksgiving that is followed by one about the dangers of salmonella.
“HairBrained” tries to be a buddy comedy, a collegiate comedy, and an underdog story all in one, and there is not one moment where the story is evenly told. Some of the characters come and go, and there isn’t much depth added to them.
Even the lead’s background is barely touched. And when he tries to make his way up in the world, get the girl, and do all those generic things, it’s hard to care. The one character who gets the most, and also has the most interesting story, is Fraser’s Leo. The viewer is uncertain how to feel for him at first, but then an interaction with his estranged daughter changes people’s perspective.
For a film that tries to be so much, it has so little to offer.