The most important thing to remember when watching Pumpkin is that directors Anthony Abrams and Adam Larson Broder (who also wrote the screenplay) mean for it to be this way. The bad acting and melodramatic moments are all a part of the movie, which they intend to be a dark satire on colleges and perceptions. Knowing this allows people to laugh at some of the stereotypes and movie cliches that are the object of ridicule. The only issue is that Abrams and Broder are treading on familiar territory. Their objects of satire are nothing new, so immediately Pumpkin feels staler than it should. The movie also has a simplistic feel to it, which falls in line with the dimwitted view of fraternity/sorority life that Pumpkin presents. Pumpkin (Hank Harris, Milwaukee, Minnesota, Delivering Milo) is the odd nickname for a young, mentally challenged boy. He is not the main character, but does serve as the catalyst that causes Carolyn McDuffy (Christina Ricci, All Over the Guy, The Man Who Cried) to realize how meaningless her life is.

Carolyn attends college in Southern California, where she is the star of her sorority. She is dating tennis star Kent Woodlands (Sam Ball), and thinks that she has a great life. Her sorority president Julie (Marisa Coughlin, Super Troopers, Freddy Got Fingered) has her eyes set on winning Sorority of the Year, and that means that she needs Carolyn on board all the way. Julie's plans are to throw a bitchin' formal attended by Carolyn and Kent, recruit the Filipino and African-American girl, and, as their service project, to coach a group of disabled teens in the Challenged Games (similar to the Special Olympics). This is controversial to the entire sorority, since those kids, are, well, weird. The strain is too much for fellow sorority member Jeanine (Dominique Swain, New Best Friend, Mean People Suck), Carolyn's roommate. Spending time around Pumpkin begins to make Carolyn realize how empty her life is. There is something so pure about Pumpkin; so real. At first, Kent is happy that Carolyn is doing something of value, but when she begins to spend more time with him, and (gasp!) possibly fall for him, he begins to resent Pumpkin.

Carolyn's growing maturity upends the entire continuum amongst her circle of friends. She wracks herself with guilt over the upcoming choice between Kent and Pumpkin. Julie becomes frustrated because it seems Carolyn's heart is not into winning Sorority of the Year, and Kent's concentration goes bust. Pumpkin just wants Carolyn. The Pumpkin character is like a void; Abrams and Broder never quite develop him enough. The only concrete thing about him is that he seems to get better as the movie progresses. Otherwise, he is a horrible stereotype, used to point out how superficial everybody else is. Everybody is pretty vapid, which lends for easy performances. Ricci looks like she is coasting along. The best people in the cast are Ball, who looks like he's channeling early Patrick Swayze. Kent Woodlands is a moron, who, because of his girlfriend's change, begins to undergo a change himself. By the end of the movie, he also has some depth to him. Ball also has some of the more amusing sequences. Harry J. Lennix (Collateral Damage, Love and Basketball) makes an all-too-brief appearance as a vehemently anti-establishment poetry professor, who teaches by intimidation and beratement.

The humor in Pumpkin is difficult to write because it treads the thin line between being funny and being offensive. It frequently falls on both sides, even simultaneously. Abrams and Broder also have the issue on how to make dumb people funny without them becoming annoying. To accomplish this, they exaggerate everything to the point of parody (case in point - Kent Woodland). Normal lines border on the melodramatic. There is a heightened sense of tension when none is necessary. Characters fall to their knees in dejection, and cars explode when flying off cliffs. Sometimes it works, and other times, it just makes Pumpkin worse.

Mongoose Rate It: Okay.
2 hours, 1 minute, Rated R for language and a scene of sexuality.

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