There was little chance I’d ever truly enjoy the Sander Brothers’ debut feature Dean Slater: Resident Advisor, so the real challenge became seeing if it could at least entertain me. Chock full of fart jokes and displays of public urination, one needs to be of a certain taste to appreciate the type of comedy director Colin Sander and his co-writers Christian and Scott have brought to the table. As such, the film will probably play well with freshmen co-eds about to begin or in the midst of their first year of college, giving them hyperbolic examples of the immature dickheads, catty prospective girlfriends, and Age of the Geek popularity they’re about to experience. Despite my penchant for cringing at such easy generalizations and juvenile gross-out gags, however, I honestly can’t deny the appeal of its titular Zen maestro of cool.
Dean Slater (“Keith Stone” himself, Mitchell Jarvis) is a dude guys aspire to become and girls long to love—an intriguing evolution from the college senior pariah banned from the fictitious Southern California State University after sticking it to the man in grand fashion years prior. Cleansed courtesy of a European sojourn off the grid, Dean makes his auspicious return as brother Chip (David Wilson Page) gets arrested in Mexico while serving as RA for a sextet of newbie freshmen. In his über calm and eccentrically enlightened way, Dean decides to let Chip stew in the heat in hopes he kicks the cocaine habit that put him there. Needing to replace him at SCSU to steward young Tyler (Nick Renaud), Cory (Glenn McCuen), and Yuji (Jimmy Wong) towards Big “Mind” on Campus greatness, Dean sparks an internet-free revolution.
It’s a fun, bold characterization that revels in its absurdity from start to finish, embodying a sort of Old Spice Man’s Man persona with an eagle on his arm, absinthe in his pocket, and pithy philosophizing that barely makes any sense yet completely captivates due to his memorable delivery. The film is at its best when he’s onscreen—something I perhaps wouldn’t have said if he was given a larger role to wear out the welcome—whether teaching his wards on the ways of college life or attempting to win back the woman of his dreams, Samantha (Italia Ricci). Sadly, however, he isn’t the star of this show. No, that is recently retracted Cal Tech student Tyler, a straight-A computer whiz trying to make the most out of attending California’s number one party school instead.
An intriguing character in his own right who’s laughed at ad nauseam as a result of a YouTube clip experienced during the end credits entitled Fartloader, his hijinks with roommates Cory and Yuji simply don’t compare to the over-the-top parody of “The Dean”. Tyler gets the usual “finding himself” plot thread alongside his meeting the non-judgmental Hanna (Nathalia Ramos); Cory is whipped by his control freak of a girlfriend mired in cliché and one-dimensionality; and Yuji quickly reveals himself to be the exhibitionist with absolutely no shame of the group. They play the stereotypes well and do conjure a few laughs if you can look past the go-to joke of peeing, but neither ever comes close to matching Jarvis’ mystery. Kids will be kids forever; Dean’s purpose in their tale is the wild card.
The Sander Brothers definitely have the technical prowess down and have crafted a very professional looking film despite only fifteen crew members, but the writing does leave some consistency to be desired. It’s a case of unreached potential reminding me of the well-meaning yet ultimate creative dud that was Broken Lizard’s debut Puddle Cruiser. With glimpses of the greatness to come with Super Troopers, it’s remembered for being the steppingstone necessary to reach that lofty high. As a calling card, though, Dean Slater: Resident Advisor gets the job done. I’m not saying the Sanders are destined for such success, just that there’s a chance it could come to fruition. It’s a matter of tweaking the dynamic between semi-heartfelt coming-of-age and completely off-the-wall characterizations that is unfortunately too top-heavy towards the latter.
Providing a meaty female role could have gone a long way to helping breed success as the girls are little more than props with Samantha not receiving enough screen time to give her place in Dean’s life more relevance than an object of affection. The Sanders hope to equal the formula used in PCU back in 1994 without realizing the Dean character—Jeremy Piven‘s star-making Droz—was its focal point. By making the kids under his care the leads, any of Jarvis’ impact becomes mere supporting genius rather than centerpiece. The choice renders the students’ unplugged plight time we bide until Dean’s return instead of allowing us to care about their renaissance of actual human contact. With redundantly crude toilet humor overshadowing the faux Jesus stylings of the one guy worth remembering, the whole proves disappointing.
Dean Slater: Resident Advisor gets a VOD release on Tuesday, August 27th.