A forgotten gem from the early 1990s, this movie is ostensibly about the fictional "Port Chester University" - but it's no accident that the acronym for it is PCU. But saying that PCU is a comedy film would be like reducing The Satyricon to being just a bawdy parody of The Odyssey. Just as Petronius Arbiter got a few satirical digs in at the society he lived in and presented some author rants about the decline and fall of a civilisation we now know in retrospect really was in a decline and fall - this film satirizes the Tumblrisation of society, having seen enough of the seeds of it in the early 1990s progenitor "political correctness" culture to warn of what was coming.

I will be warning. Of spollers.

The film opens with "pre-frosh" Tom Lawrence taking the bus from his home in Delaware to visit Port Chester with a view to seeing if he wishes to attend the university next year. In an attempt to make a good impression he arrives in an Oxford buttondown and a Repp tie, blue blazer and slacks. The only problem is that he is paired (as revenge) with "Droz", a pre-hair plugs Jeremy Piven who we first see lying in a graffitti'd basement room snoring his way through a lit cigarette passed out on a bed. When Tom removes the cigarette out of concern for his safety, Droz grabs him by the throat and orders him to give him coffee. Immediately. He then settles down into some semblance of humanity and tries to get rid of his charge.

Droz lives in "The Pit", the term given to a former frat house now full of grunge rockers and ambient partiers. In a fantastic sight gag we see a series of Ivy League style "Class Of" photos for the fraternity who owned the place prior. Generations of men with nice haircuts, wearing a suit and tie in academic  photos, all mounted with hand-letterd subtitles in a common frame - year after year. As the camera follows the years, we suddenly hit 1969, which is just a lazy group photo of some hippies on a lawn, in a Wal-Mart frame. We then see a disco-ish 1970s picture, before centering in on 1993, which is a Polaroid of two people skateboarding inside a house, stuck on the wall with gum. We see the residents of the house in their initial scene playing rollerblade hockey with a full ashtray as a puck. "Pigman", sitting in the corner in pyjamas, has not moved in almost four years, riveted to his television set. Turns out his thesis is on the "Caine/Hackman theorem" which states that there is always a Michael Caine or Gene Hackman movie on TV somewhere, some time. When Tom is amazed at this, Droz points out that realistically, you can major in anything if your bullshit game is on point. He then gives another list of rules for college. No classes before 11 am. Beer, and plenty of it, make friends with the one guy in your dorm with a car the first day, because that will become invaluable, and so forth.

Not able to shake the young man, who is now in a state of shock, Droz shows him the real university campus tour.

They meet up with the "Womanists", a parody of Rush Limbaugh's take on feminists, all in olive drab cargo shorts and bandannas, protesting anything that could be interpreted as phallic. Droz dated or at least had an interest in one of them, who was lured into the group and turned against him. She seems to have a soft spot for him still, which results in the others forming a human wall around her to protect her from his bad influence. He points this out to Tom and they leave.

First stop is the protestors, who are standing there in 90s counterculture clothing demanding that the whales be saved and Nelson Mandela be freed. A gay activist points out snarkily that Mandela has already been freed, much to the young man's surprise. The joke works even better now because the snarky protestor is demanding that gays be allowed to serve openly in the military, which has actually since happened. They want lunch, but the cafeteria is blocked by the vegans, who last week were "no nukes" protestors. They never stick with a cause more than a week, but they're really fervent about it when they do. Right now they're blocking the cafeteria with a theatrical presentation of a man in a cow suit being butchered, along with a wall of people across the door, and bongos and protest signs. Droz and company weave into the crowd, chanting with them then duck past them. Unable to stand their fake self righteousness, he goes to the third floor, grabs all the ground beef he can find and showers the protestors with it, before running. Tom Lawrence isn't fast enough and is instantly recognizable in his preppy outfit. They all chase after him. In his haste he runs straight into a group of black activists who see his Brooks Brothers outfit as a symbol of cultural oppression, and hides from them in the computer floor, with stressed out people lacking sleep furiously typing away at computers because theses are due Monday. He trips over the main power cable on his way out - suddenly unplugging every computer - and soon a third group of people wanting him dead are chasing him.

Meanwhile oily prep school grad Rand, played by David Spade, is cementing an unholy alliance with Dr. Garcia-Thomas, played by the inimitable Jessica Walter. They both hate the Pit. It used to be a frat house, and though frats were banned in the 1960s they'd still like a communal house to unofficially be a frat in. After all, their fraternity, "Shaft and Balls", is not supposed to actually exist anyway. The Pit would be that house. As for Garcia-Thomas, her drive in life is to encourage as much political correctness as possible. She coos at "Moonbeam", the ginger activist with the bullhorn screaming "Meat is Murder", that the "sensitivity infraction" form she's reporting the Pit with WILL result in action. Rand informs Garcia-Thomas that the 1%ers have tabulated the damages the Pit has incurred this year, leading to her presenting them with a $7600 bill they obviously cannot pay. And if they don't, she will terminate their housing and relocate "Shaft and Balls" into the former Pit house.

Rand knows that Droz's next move will be to host some kind of rent party to make this work - and that is the zugzwang he was hoping for. Because if they do, obviously the party will result in beer, women being fondled and more, which will give the Pit enough "Sensitivity Demerit Points" to be closed down on the grounds of being anti-social and hurting the precious feelings of other people. The "Womanists" alone will protest the party on principle, never mind anyone else. That being said, they name the band "Everyone Gets Laid" and start to put up flyers, which consist of the dean's head on a swimsuit model's body. But Droz gives an eloquent and stirring speech. This isn't just about the rent - it's about seeing a bunch of people who desperately, desperately need to lighten up, get lit, and get laid. Part of the reason these groups are all so angry and divisive is that all they really need is a good time, and a set of genitals of their choice to interact with. And it is practically a sacred duty on their part to provide such a thing.

Part of the benefit of Tom Lawrence being in hiding from just about everyone is the fact that it puts him in the right place at the right time to overhear a series of conversations, and pieces together the intrigue behind the scenes.

As he's running from one group, he is hit in the face with an opened door and taken in by Shaft and Balls who recognize in his preppy outfit a potential recruit. As David Spade's Rand says, "Hey, lt's the 90s, we'll take what we can get." The password to get in includes several calls and responses, including knowing that the Bluecher is the classic yachting shoe, and "who killed Jesus?" "Who are the JEWS, now let me in." He reports to the rest on how the plans are going to evict the Pit, unaware that one of their sympathizers is half-passed out on the couch next to him. They take him with them on a walk around the campus and walk past the only athletics left - a rousing game of frisbee football between the Womanists and a group of obvious stoners, "Jerrytown". Given that the hippies have gotten incredibly stoned before the game they're getting beaten badly, so they pull out their ringer, "Blotter". Blotter turns out to be a dog, who by definition is very adept at chasing and catching frisbees. During all this Rand rants about how colleges used to be for white people, when women were "coerced into sex" there weren't any charges, minorities weren't welcome, and so forth. Tom has hard enough and bows out, but the vegans see him and give chase. As he runs through the game, interrupting it, he catches the frisbee preventing it from hitting him in the face, but in his panic forgets to discard it and now the Womanists and Jerrytown are chasing him as well. Droz idly goes "hey, I know that kid".

The plan to save the Pit involves the band playing, beer being obtained, and $5 being gathered at the door. As such, meaty stoner "Gutter" is dispatched to get beer but makes the fatal mistake of getting a bong hit or two with two of Jerrytown's finest (one played by Gary Busey's son Jake) and passing out in the streets of Port Chester. He comes to just in time to not get beer because of the blue laws closing sales at 8 pm. Meanwhile, the band have electrocuted themselves and blown up their amps in the process. And the cute freshman girl with an obvious crush on Tom has been dispatched to find 1500 people to attend the party.

Gutter hates his life: he was supposed to get the beer and then attend a concert - the band members of which pull up and ask him for directions to Hartford, Connecticut. When informed how far away they are they cancel their gig, and Gutter asks them if they can give him a ride to campus if they're headed that way. George Clinton and the P-Funk Allstars agree and he gets on their bus.

Droz and Mullaney, a dreadlocked senior in the Pit - return expecting a party in full swing and find nothing. Not sure what to do next, deus ex machina provides a helping hand as Clinton and company come on in to use the bathroom. Gutter may have screwed up the beer run, but returning with George Clinton is far better. They explain the situation and beg him to play their house party, and Clinton thinks this cool enough to agree. Next thing you know they're a few pieces of liquor short of the rent. Blue laws being what they are, their only option is to steal two kegs from a nearby dorm as well as the bar from the bicentennial do that Garcia-Thomas is holding for the board and alumni. They steal Rand's BMW convertible to do so, and trash it in the process. The only thing they're missing is people. Tom Lawrence was set on just ditching the weekend, but the cute freshman girl hopes he doesn't leave. She says it's a failure for her as well, she can't get a crowd. Tom says he can fix that, and makes himself very visible. Soon they're all running furiously for "The Pit".

Back at the bicentennial wine and cheese - the alumni are not happy with their new dean. Though her own personal mission of political correctness is one thing, constant protests and negative publicity is another. They are running a university, and an old one that actually does have climbing Ivy on the buildings. Hard to get endowments and research money and alumni donations if the place is a mockery of what it once was.

Droz and company enter the party, make off with the bar, and use "The Club" (which they found unopened in the back seat of the car) to lock everyone in the room after cueing up the stereo to play "Afternoon Delight" on repeat. Rand and Garcia-Thomas are forced eventually to throw a chair through a second storey window. And now they really are out for blood.

The party at the Pit is in full swing and for once the gay activists, the black activists, the vegans, the stoners, the Amnesty International people and even the Womanists (who at first are repelled by a few frat types until they come to the realization that if they're actually nice to men, they'll bring them beer) are bouncing up and down to the sound of P-funk.

The dean enters with campus police and breaks up the party. But Droz and company have raised the damage bill in full, so they're in the clear. Right? Wrong. Turns out that there were some complaints before everyone mellowed out at the party, and enough have been tabulated to have them evicted post-haste. Rand orders them out of "his" house. Two pit members sneer that at least they trashed his car, but he produces an alarm "fob" and makes ANOTHER red convertible BMW beep. Now he wants them off his lawn.

They're despairing over a total loss, until Tom Lawrence points out she can't evict them if she's fired. He's overheard the various factions in the school and knows that the dean is one complaint herself away from being fired. Any whiff of protest and she's done for. That's why she's wanted them out since the beginning - in her mind the problem isn't PC culture being inherently antagoinistic, but the fact that there are still "normal people" who refuse to live by that maxim.

They gatecrash the bicentennial - the triumph of which was supposed to be her eliminating the college's old mascot of a Native American and replacing it with an endangered species - the whooping crane - one of which she has in a cage. Droz and company get past campus security with the old Alka-Seltzer/epilepsy ruse and take the mic. Ranting about it being an American's God given right to slack, free salad bar trips and so forth, he actually starts a no-protest protest. A protest would be too easy and too dismissable - what he argues is that as Americans in the first world, they've got it pretty good and if they're going to protest, it's literally going to be over nothing. That will make the Dean's wish for constant angst come true but be actually representative of the first world problems in question.

The board of directors has seen enough and they fire the dean on the spot. That she's made the place the kind of place where people are literally protesting over nothing is a bridge too far. Rand rants about how everything's ruined (not realizing Droz is holding a hot mic under his chin) and refers to the "minorities" and "the pillow biters" and just about every other group in very nasty and vindictive terms, and soon it's another guy in preppy clothes furiously running for his life from the assembled crowd. All of it. Tom Lawrence sees this from his bus window, as he pledges to the girl he'll be back next year.

Droz and the now former Womanist turned girlfriend again decide to go somewhere. Out for coffee. She gives him the good news that her grandmother gifted her a red BMW convertible, they can take that. Droz is not quite sure how to explain things to her...

The girl didn't see much of a career after this film and Piven disappeared for a decade. Most of the rest of the cast were never seen again either. But this film remains an absolute, Generation-X masterpiece.

 

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