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Accepted

But while Pink gets the requisite comic vibe down cool, the disappointment with "Accepted" is that, after a very funny start, there just isn't enough content to fill the feature-length curriculum.

Granted, the same could have been said about "Old School," but without the gonzo presence of a Will Ferrell, this under-achieving Universal release will probably have to settle for strictly average boxoffice grades.

Justin Long, whose star has been on the rise thanks to his TV appearances as the Mac guy in those Apple commercials, definitely has a laid-back, smart-aleck Cusack thing going on as Bartleby Gaines, a graduating high school senior who has been systematically rejected by all eight universities to which he applied.

Afraid to share that news with his judgmental parents, Bartleby cooks up a little scheme that guarantees his admission to the ninth.

With the help of his best buddy, the neurotic Schrader (certified scene-stealer Jonah Hill), along with fellow college rejects, Bartleby simply invents a college of his own, set-dressing the site of an abandoned psychiatric facility sufficiently so as to distract his folks from the South Harmon Institute of Technology's acronymic subtext.

Alas, the ploy proves a little too convincing when applicants by the hundreds begin showing up with tuition in hand, much to the irritation of Dean Van Horne (Anthony Heald) of the neighboring, snooty Harmon University.

Assorted plot impossibilities aside, it's certainly a workable setup, and Pink, working from a script credited to Adam Cooper & Bill Collage ("New York Minute") and Mark Perez ("Herbie: Fully Loaded"), gets things off to a neatly subversive start.

But once Bartleby and company decide to play things for keeps, turning S.H.I.T. into a fully functioning free-for-all, the picture's comic energy begins to wane and never quite gets back up to speed before some heavy third-act speechifying kicks in.

While Long's savvy slacker provides a sturdy backbone, it's Hill who makes off with the best lines, giving them a loopy verbal spin all his own. Also amusing is "The Daily Show's" Lewis Black as Long's outspoken, socially impaired Uncle Ben, who has been initially recruited to pose as South Harmon's dean but ends up staying to become its most popular lecturer.

Production values are lively enough thanks to cinematographer Matthew F. Leonetti's bright exteriors and production designer Rusty Smith's offbeat campus touches, while David Schommer's spirited score helps set the gently absurdist tone.

Director: Steve Pink
Screenwriters: Adam Cooper & Bill Collage and Mark Perez
Story: Mark Perez
Producers: Tom Shadyac, Michael Bostick
Executive producers: Louis G. Friedman, Mark Perez, Brian Lutz
Director of photography: Matthew F. Leonetti
Production designer: Rusty Smith
Editor: Scott Hill
Costume designer: Genevieve Tyrrell
Music: David Schommer
Cast:
 Bartleby Gaines: Justin Long
 Sherman Schrader: Jonah Hill
 Monica: Blake Lively
 Rory: Maria Thayer
 Dean Van Horne: Anthony Heald
 Glen: Adam Herschman
 Hands: Columbus Short
 Uncle Ben: Lewis Black
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