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Rush Night
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by Scott Weinberg

"Only in a college sex comedy would a chocolate donut equal casual sex."
3 stars

One might be tempted to dismiss Zac Adam's "Rush Night" as an obvious ripoff of "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle" - until they realize that this movie was actually released BEFORE Harry and K. even hit the scene!

Shot on video and clearly cobbled together on a (very) limited budget, Rush Night starts out in rather unimpressive fashion before it actually gets quite a bit better...which is before it just keeps getting longer. If director Zac Adams is looking for some constructive criticism, my first piece would be this: trim this movie down, pal. Find the gags and character moments you like least and just slice 'em right outta there. Nobody really needs a clearly derivative little low-budget college farce like this to run over 100 minutes. A more merciless trip to the editing bay will yield a flick that flows a lot better, plus you'd be removing what you think are the lamest gags, thereby allowing the stronger material to sing a bit louder.

Indeed, Rush Night is, frankly, a familiar little affair, but that's not too nasty of an indictment. Hollywood cannibalizes itself 100 times a year, so I see nothing wrong with it when the indie filmmakers take a shot. Peppered throughout Rush Night are moments, characters and gags inspired by Revenge of the Nerds, Dumb & Dumber, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, and, of course, Animal House. But hey, at least Zac Adams (director, screenwriter) and Bob Giordano (actor, screenwriter) have good taste in teen comedies. Better to be inspired by Animal House than by Van Wilder...

Rush Night offers a fair share of comedy material that simply doesn't fly. Either it's the sort of schtick that audiences are just plain old sick of by now, or the material's not focused enough to sustain any extended peals of laughter. In the first ten minutes alone we're offered fart jokes, humiliated nerd humor, and a sequence in which one poor loser wields an unwanted boner while standing in front of his entire class. Not exactly the pinnacle of originality here.

But as Rush Night churned on, my initial dismissal of the thing turned into mild appreciation - thanks mainly to the charmingly raw (and entirely nerdly) lead performances by Giordano and co-star J.P. McNeely. The pair strike a likable chemistry early in the movie, and while they're certainly not actors who need to start boning up on the Oscar acceptance speeches, they both possess a rough-edged grass-roots charm that manages to keep the flick afloat.

Basically, Jimmy and Kevin are huge nerds. And they desperately want to join the hot frat on campus - so they can (of course) score lots of hot chicks. After spending one horrible day as potential members, J and K are humiliated and unceremoniously shown the door. No fair. Fully intent on scoring some of that sweet female companionship that oozes from the frat house's every pore, Jimmy and Kevin crash the big party. Posing as popular fraternity fellas, they meet up with two young ladies as lovely as they are stoned on wacky weed. And these ladies want only ONE THING:

Chocolate donuts!

All but certain that the acquisition of said donuts will lead to a night full of carnal bliss, Jimmy and Kevin (along with the ladies, of course) hit the streets in search of the elusive chocolate donut - and the inevitable sex-fest to follow!

That's pretty much it. But as a movie freak who's always enjoyed the "wacky adventure all in one night" concept (a la After Hours and Adventures in Babysitting), I found myself fitfully amused by what Rush Night had to offer. Sure, Adams and Giordano spend perhaps a little too much time focusing on gross-out-style comedy schtick that we've seen over and over by this point - but hey, they're just trying to make you laugh. Tough to get angry at someone who's doing their darndest to make you giggle.

Fortunately, the four leads, raw and inexperienced as they are, manage to keep things perky enough. Rachael Bernard and Amanda Bailey start out as manipulative little witches, but as the night drags on (and things get all sorts of loony) the ladies thaw out and become, actually, quite sweet and lovable. McNeely and Giordano prove to be quite funny when bantering back and forth, so one's willing to ignore the fact that they aren't exactly Olivier and Barrymore.

The main problem with "Rush Night" is in its pacing. There's a solid parcel of chuckles to be found sprinkled throughout the movie, but there's also a big handful of dry spots in which very little happens. (Well, nothing all that funny, anyway.) Mr. Adams clearly has a passion for the finer points of stoner/slob comedy, and there's an actual sweetness to the movie's final act, but he'd be well served by excising some of the more arid material. All in all, not a bad try from an indie moviemaker, but I can't help but think the movie would be vastly improved by a visit from Mr. Scissors.

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originally posted: 12/02/04 11:29:37
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Directed by
  Zac Adams

Written by
  Zac Adams
  Bob Giordano

  J.P. McNeely
  Joe Giordano
  Rachael Bernard
  Amanda Bailey
  Brandon Boyd
  Zac Adams

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