How I Got into College

How I Got into College is a scrappy comedy about the traumas of being smart, rich, and beautiful and trying to gain admission to the university of your choice. Is this enough of a premise for a movie?

Probably not, as How I Got into College runs out of comic ideas pretty quickly. The central character is a bright, sharp class president/homecoming queen (Lara Flynn Boyle) with an unusual formation of freckles on her forehead. (You begin to notice these things in this kind of movie.) She wants to attend exclusive Ramsey college.

Her klutzy secret admirer (Corey Parker) also wants to attend Ramsey. But only because she does; he, a dunce, has no other thought than to spend his college years within gazing distance of his queen. But he has little or no chance of getting accepted, by the girl or the school.

Meanwhile, the Ramsey admissions board is trying to decide whether to place stricter emphasis on grades or allow more room for personality. The nice board member (Anthony Edwards) favors bringing in more minority students and interesting misfits. The mean board member (Charles Rocket) favors upwardly mobile go-getters and the recruiting slogan, “Come to Ramsey and Own a BMW.”

Nothing too interesting or inspiring about any of this. The funniest sustained idea is the preparation course the hero takes to improve his SAT scores. The instructors (played by Saturday Night Live regulars Nora Dunn and Phil Hartman) teach the students how to guess, estimate, and otherwise fake their way through the test, emphasizing that the important thing is not what you know about the world, but what you know about taking a test. (These programs really exist and have been successful in beefing up SAT scores.)

Some of the test questions are amusingly brought to life by director Savage Steve Holland (Better Off Dead). But nothing else makes the grade.

First published in The Herald, May 23, 1989

IMDb says that Holland replaced Jan Eliasberg as director; she had done some Miami Vice episodes and went on to make a huge amount of TV. Some pretty good character actors on hand here, including Philip Baker Hall, Robert Ridgely, Richard Jenkins, and O-Lan Jones, plus Curtis Armstrong unbilled. For Lara Flynn Boyle, this was just before Twin Peaks, obviously.

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