The Skulls (2000)

Directed by Rob Cohen
Written by John Pogue
Starring Joshua Jackson, Paul Walker, Leslie Bibb, Hill Harper, Craig T. Nelson

My Advice: Wait for Cable

Lucas McNamara (Jackson) is a pretty cool guy.  He's going to super Ivy League school New Haven under his own steam, hellbent on being a lawyer.  You can think of our buddy Luke as the college "everyguy": he works in the university cafeteria and still has time to lead the rowing team to victory on more than one occasion.  He and his buddy Will (Harper) and his really good buddy Chloe (Bibb) hang out and joke and eat pizza and scoff at the notion that Luke will get invited to join the secret society known as The Skulls.  Luke's kinda hoping it happens, though, since they're supposed to have fundage out the yin yang and his sizable college loans are on his mind a lot.  Then--it happens.  He and another student, Caleb (Walker), are among those tapped to join The Skulls.  It's all fun and games to begin with, then Luke figures out that everything comes with a price--even free cars, tax free deposits into his checking account and chippies.

Portrait of a film that looked good in the concept stages.  The only reason to see this film is Jackson's performance though that's not enough to make me advise you to rush out to your local cinema--or your video store.  But I digress.  He manages to be a pillar of believability when all around him is so utterly goofy that you wonder if they meant to make the film a self-parody.  This is a shame, too, since it actually opened with promise.  Coupled with Jackson's out of the starting gate solidity, you have an engaging race to draw you in--and you can feel it working.  But then, things begin to go horribly awry with the script long before things go wrong for our heroes.  The screenwriter appeared to be struggling to balance the plot and characterization, and the true loser is the dialogue.  For every four good lines, a fifth zinger that just makes you wince.  Then the ratio gets worse.  From such intriguing beginnings it manages to degenerate to the point where I expected Nedermeyer to show up at any moment and start spanking Kevin Bacon.  The camel that broke the straw's back for me was the laughable "shower scene" between Chloe and Luke.  And no, it's not what you think--it's far, far worse.

The script is just heaped with logical problems and the movie isn't smart enough to keep our mind from straying to them.  For example, even though Luke is supposed to have money problems, his dorm room is downright kicking.  I guess he's got the same trust fund the Friends have, what?  And you know in films where you have someone talking on a phone, and you can't hear the other person talking, just the spaces where the someone is listening?  There's a hilarious scene in which Paul Walker demonstrates the importance of having someone coach you on how long you should act as though you're listening.  He has an entire conversation on a cell phone, yelling at the top of his lungs, with no spaces for listening, so his father (Nelson) must be simply grunting in response to each shout.

I could go on, but I shan't.  Suffice to say that there's not much to recommend this film.  It could have taken the premise anywhere but where it went and it might have been okay, but oh well.  At least it seemed to have a good soundtrack.

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