I can't say I was particularly impressed with Andrew Bergman's The Freshman. Bergman previously showed immense comedic promise with his screenplay work on Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles, but The Freshman just doesn't have what it takes.
Matthew Broderick stars as Clark Kellogg, an incoming freshman at the NYU film school. Upon his arrival in New York, Clark is promptly robbed of all his possessions by a thief named Vic (Bruno Kirby). This poses a big problem for Clark; he has no money and no clothes and an egotistical professor who insists his students purchase each and every one of his books (at a cost upwards of $700).
While in the aforementioned professor's office explaining just why he will be unable to purchase the required reading, Clark notices Vic walking down the street. Clark excuses himself, climbs out the window, and begins pursuing Vic down the street. After catching up to Vic, Clark demands his money and possessions back. The money, however, Vic has gambled away at the track. Clark threatens to go to the police, but Vic offers him a job with good money working for his uncle in order to keep himself out of jail.
The uncle is Carmine Sabatini, a powerful importer played by Marlon Brando. The character is essentially the same one that Brando played in The Godfather. The film makes light of the fact that Sabatini is the same character as Corleone. There are many references to The Godfather and multiple characters mention the resemblance between Sabatini and Corleone.
Sabatini offers Clark a job picking up packages at the airport and delivering them to their destination. The job pays $1,000 for two days of work, and this large amount of money makes Clark nervous that the job is not entirely legal. Sabatini assures him that everything is on the level, and Clark reluctantly accepts.
Clark assumes that he will be picking up and delivering drugs, but on his first assignment he goes to the airport and picks up a giant lizard. After doing a little research that night, Clark comes to find out that the giant lizard, a Komodo Dragon, is an endangered species. Clark is very upset, and goes to see Sabatini to tender his resignation immediately, but before he can say anything Sabatini kisses him tells him he's marrying his daughter (Penelope Ann Miller) and gives him a brand new Mercedes as an engagement present. He tells him that he is now family, for life.
The problem with The Freshman is that it is supposed to be a comedy and it's just not very funny. The concept of the story is actually somewhat original, but the execution comes across as flat and uninteresting. Bergman spends too much effort trying to add to the comedic aspect of the story, and doesn't spend enough time in character development or on the reasons why Sabatini is as powerful as he is. Instead there are scenes that are really somewhat useless, like the Komodo Dragon getting loose and running through the mall.
The idea of bringing Marlon Brando in to play Don Corleone with a different name is definitely something unexpected, and it actually doesn't fail miserably. Brando is able to play it with a little bit of humor, and his performance is the lone bright spot in the film. I really wouldn't waste my time on The Freshman; if you want some good Matthew Broderick humor, go rent Ferris Bueller's Day Off or Election, and if you want some good Brando go for The Godfather. The Freshman just isn't worth it.
Grade: C-Powered by Sidelines