National Lampoon Presents Dorm Daze: Unrated Edition
Rated: Not Rated
Running Time: 100 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)
Subtitles: English and Spanish
Audio: English – Dolby Digital 5.1
August 10th, 2004
The following is a revised version of my original publication. My original was entirely my own work, but as a courtesy to a fellow reviewer and HTF member who was concerned about perceived similarities in our descriptions of the plot of Dorm Daze, I have made some revisions. My evaluation of both the film and the disc remains unchanged.
From the back of the keepcase for Dorm Daze: “Unrated.” True. “Uninhibited and unbelievably raunchy!” Not so much…
Whatever happened to the good ol’ days when “National Lampoon’s” movie division was cranking out classic comedies like Animal House, Vacation, and Christmas Vacation? Since then, it seems like the organization’s creativity well has dried up, and it is merely churning out utterly disappointing and forgettable fodder like Senior Trip, or Van Wilder for the teen demographic.
Unfortunately, Dorm Daze, which only managed to take in $56,000 in theaters, fails to recall the glory days of National Lampoon, and instead deserves to be lumped in with the rest of the crap they have been pushing on movie-goers in recent years, or those who buy/rent the direct-to-video stuff that even National Lampoon would not dare release in a theater. Basically, this is because the screenplay by Worm Miller and Patrick Casey is much too repetitive and the direction by David and Scott Hillenbrand is unfocused. Oh, and the description and cover art are misleading too, but we’ll get to that later!
Getting to the plot, the events in Dorm Daze take place on the campus of Billingsley University, just as the semester in progress is coming to a close. In this setting, a whole slew of situations are being taken out of context, and cases of mistaken identity are running rampant, especially as it pertains to two different people named Dominique – one a hooker (Boti Bliss), the other a beautiful exchange student (Marie Noelle Marquis).
Of course, like most teen sex comedies, a key component of the formula also involves people being pressured to lose their virginity. To that end, we have a character named Styles McFee (Patrick Renna), who is trying desperately to help his brother score – didn’t you know that college-aged men are forbidden to be virgins by statute ! It seems as though his efforts are to no avail though, as Booker McFee (Chris Owen of American Pie) is content to wait until his girlfriend Rachel (Gable Carr) is ready to go all the way (quite the old-fashioned gentleman!).
Anyway, Styles believes he knows what is best for his bro’, so he ignores his wishes and tries to set Booker up with a prostitute…which sets a whole chain of crazy events in motion. The fun doesn’t end there though, for there are a myriad of other characters in this film, usually involved in one wacky, confusion-laden subplot or another, all of which begin closing in on one another when a large sum of cash is thrown into the mix!
Some of the other characters in Dorm Daze are portrayed by twenty-something actors that you will probably recognize, including Tatyana Ali (Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) and Patrick Renna (Son In Law). I don’t know, now that I think about it, maybe I only recognized some of these folks because I spend entirely too much time watching movies and TV shows! Hey, how else would I know Patrick Renna was in Son In Law?
In any event, since this being a teen comedy and all, please excuse me if I refrain from getting into too much depth, where these actors’ abilities are concerned. Suffice it to say you are not going to find any performances that those voting on the Oscars® will be considering, but most everyone in the ensemble did a fair job, at least as far as movies of this nature are concerned. As it stands, however, even decent performances by the youthful cast prove incapable of elevating this material, which is both unfunny and derivative.
All of this has brought me to my final point, which is something I am sure you may be wondering about, given that this film is available in an “unrated” edition. Getting right to it, I think it is fair to say that one could infer from the cover and description that Dorm Daze is a raunchy, no-holds-barred sex comedy. “So, tell me Jason,”, you say, “just how HOT is this film?” Well, here goes…
Although it is being released in a separate “unrated” edition, and a “teen-oriented sex-comedy” is what Dorm Daze appears to be on the surface, it is actually pretty tame. Sure, it does feature a couple of bare, silicon-enhanced breasts, and some mild lesbian kissing, but given that Wild Things was rated “R”, I cannot for the life of me believe that this “unrated” version of Dorm Daze would not have received the same rating from our friends at the MPAA without much trouble. Now I will admit, I have not seen the “R” rated edition, but since the press release indicated that the unrated edition is only about 3 minutes longer, and there is nothing that is terribly racy by current teen comedy standards in the entire film, the “unrated” moniker smacks of a shameless marketing ploy to me!
SO, HOW DOES IT LOOK?
For Dorm Daze, the folks at MGM have hit the books, and turned in a solid B+ widescreen transfer (1.85:1), enhanced for widescreen displays! Although the image occasionally hints at the film’s nowhere-near-blockbuster budget, colors are rendered accurately, without any smearing. This is particularly true of flesh tones, which exhibit even subtle variations in the pigmentation between characters.
Small budget or not, since Dorm Daze is a recent production, it should come as no surprise that the images are clean, sharp, and quite detailed. More importantly, the film does not contain any evidence of the ugly digital signatures that can result from the compression process (like edge enhancement halos, aliasing, and so forth).
Overall, I would not go so far as to say that this is demo quality material, but it is certainly a fine home video presentation of this film.
WHAT IS THAT NOISE?
Hmmm…it is a teen comedy, so how is the Dolby Digital 5.1 track going to sound? Well, like almost every other film of this nature, it reproduces the source material in an acceptable fashion, but does not engage the listener as much as it might. Still, it is always a positive when dialogue sounds natural, and is reproduced without hissing or other distractions. Characters’ speech is also well balanced against both the score and effects, so there is never any problem making out what the characters are saying.
However, as is usually the case with teen-oriented sex comedies, the surround and LFE channels do not make their presence known very often. Therefore, as I mentioned, the track is not all that enveloping. To be sure, the soundtrack’s rock songs open up the soundstage a little bit, but other than that, you are in for a pretty front-heavy listening experience. That is not necessarily a bad thing though, and Dorm Daze’s soundtrack definitely sounds about as good as one would expect from a film from this genre.
Feature-length audio commentary is provided for Dorm Daze by co-directors David and Scott Hillenbrand and editor Dave O'Brien. Given the subject matter, and the fact that this is a Lampoon movie, this was an astonishingly dull and scene-specific commentary. Basically, the participants ramble on about inconsequential things, like trivial areas of the production design, or point out some small things that viewers might have missed, but that is about it. Listen only if you must!!!
National Lampoon’s Master Debaters
This strange extra, produced by National Lampoon Networks (??? – what is this) consists of a pair of panelists arguing over “important” issues like the fact that X-ray vision is the greatest superpower and which show is better, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or Boy Meets World. Three persons in white wigs, who hurl insults at the debating teams at every opportunity, are responsible for moderating this farce.
In my opinion, neither debate is particularly funny, and I am still trying to figure out what this has to do with Dorm Daze. In any case, the latter of the two debates is a little more interesting (if only slightly so), as Danielle Fishel and Tatyana Ali get to argue over the merits of the series that they actually appeared on (personally, I would go with Fresh Prince), instead of debating a more bizarre and obscure topic like X-ray vision.
He Said, She Said: Behind the Scenes of the Fantasy Sequence
During this “making of” mini-doc on the fantasy sequence, David Hillenbrand, Scott Hillenbrand, Patrick Renna, and Marie Noelle Marquis discuss the process of taking the “fantasy sequence” from script to screen, which is supposed to be what the featurette is all about...um, yeah sure it is. In reality, this featurette exists merely to showcase some additional footage of former Playboy Playmate Katie Lohman’s breasts (from her audition) – not that this is a bad thing . If you even care, the total running time for this almost useless (remember, there are the boobies! ) extra is 6 minutes.
A rather unfunny 4-minute gag reel filled with line flubs and the typical silliness found on similar extras is what you will get if you choose to peruse this bonus feature.
There are a total of 3 deleted scenes, available with director’s commentary as an option. Without the commentary, these scenes only run for about two minutes, and honestly, they do not add anything to the film, so it is wise that they were cut. The three scenes in question are entitled:
--- Cliff and Hooker Find the Purse
--- Claire Confides in Maria and Lynne
--- Lorenzo and Claire Arrive at McMartin Hall
The trailer for National Lampoon’s Dorm Daze is included.
(on a five-point scale)
THE LAST WORD
Although it is nowhere near as racy and raucous as advertised, there are a few humorous moments in Dorm Daze, like a double entendre-filled conversation about “sausage” between a geeky kid and a hooker. Unfortunately, funny bits like this are too few and far between, and the rest of this film, contains far too much in the way of poorly executed clichés, repetitive misunderstandings, and banal dialogue.
As far as the DVD is concerned, it is technically sound, with an audio track that falls in line with those found on most other comedies and a good-looking transfer. Conversely, the disc is fairly well endowed with added value materials, but most of it adds little or nothing to the experience. Overall, I suppose its presentation is acceptable, but since Dorm Daze is neither funny nor memorable, I cannot in good conscience recommend anything more than a rental (at most), especially when there are so many better “teen sex comedies” out there.