Screenplay : Joe Jarvis & Greg Coolidge
MPAA Rating : R
Year of Release : 2002
Stars : Barry Watson (Dave / Daisy), Harland Williams (Doofer / Roberta), Michael Rosenbaum (Adam / Adina), Melissa Sagemiller (Leah), Heather Matarazzo (Katie), Kathryn Stockwood (Patty), Greg Coolidge (Pete Young)
Sorority Boys is a dumb comedy that takes a silly idea—three guys, thrown out of their cherished fraternity house after being accused of stealing party funds, disguise themselves as girls and join a sorority—and makes it utterly inane. Full of witless jokes, dealing in broad stereotypes and outrageously unbelievable scenarios, and saddled with a general air of misogyny and emotional sadism that is never fully balanced by its rather lame attempts to deal with real issues faced by women, it is a bizarre movie to say the least.
The three guys are Dave (Barry Watson, 7th Heaven), Adam (Michael Rosenbaum, who plays Lex Luther on the TV series Smallville), and Doofer (comedian Harland Williams), the first two of which are completely forgettable characters and the latter of which is memorable only in how he apes John Belushi's perpetual college drunk from National Lampoon's Animal House (1978). When the movie opens, they are just as shallow, conniving, cruel, and aimless as their other fraternity brothers in Kappa Omega Kappa (K.O.K.—get it? see, if you sound it out phonetically, it sounds like ... oh, never mind). The members of K.O.K. reserve their worst animosity for the sorority across the street, Delta Omicron Gamma, whose letters D.O.G. pretty much sum up others' opinions of them. Led by the headstrong, would-be feminist Leah (Melissa Sagemiller), D.O.G. is composed of all the rejects, outcasts, and girls that are considered unattractive on campus, ranging from one girl who is a "giant," to a French foreign exchange student with a hairlip (not to mention the casual inclusion of numerous ethnic minority students, which lends the whole movie an air of casual racism to go along with its misogyny).
When the guys are framed by the president of K.O.K. so it appears that they have stolen thousands of dollars reserved for a big alumni bash, they find themselves living at the D.O.G. house (get it? Like a doghouse because it's ... filled with ... y'know ... dogs ...) as Daisy, Adina, and Roberta. Dave/Daisy ends up falling in love with Leah, which creates a strange pseudo-lesbian relationship because Leah is in love with his female impersonation—you can see how the movie is already getting in over its head in the gender-issues department. Meanwhile, Adam/Adina begins to learn the harsh truth about the humiliation college girls who are not considered pretty must suffer, and Doofer/Roberta really gets in touch with his feminine side by finally letting his feelings out about all the peer pressure he's felt to smash hundreds of beer cans against his head despite the migraines. Ripping a page from Revenge of the Nerds (1984), Doofer shows the D.O.G. girls how a little (actually, a whole lot of) marijuana can really help them open up.
Much of the movie's humor, of course, relies on others believing that Dave, Adam, and Doofer are girls, which is frankly preposterous. It becomes even more preposterous when we are asked to believe that their own fraternity brothers don't recognize them, especially a horny little toad (Tony Denman), who makes it his goal to lose his virginity to Adam/Adina (this is partially due to some advice Adam gave him at the beginning of the movie about raising his "numbers" by lowering his "quality"). The plot also laboriously requires Leah to known Dave in his guy form in addition to Daisy and to not notice that they are the same person.
First-time screenwriters Joe Jarvis and Greg Coolidge and director Wallace Wolodarsky, previously a writer for The Simpsons and director of Coldblooded (1995), a little-seen dark comedy about a hit man starring Jason Priestley, front-load the beginning of the movie with a little too much blatant misogyny, even though it is obviously with the idea that the guys will "learn a lesson" about the treatment of women. For instance, there is a practice at K.O.K. parties known as "dogcatching" that involves finding an ugly girl that has somehow slipped into the party, throwing a net over her, and dragging her out of the house while everyone hoots and hollers. Cruel as this is, it is played for laughs at first, which makes it hard to decipher whether or not the filmmakers share in their characters' sadistic pleasure (and, by extension, want us to, as well), and it undermines the impact when it happens to the guys in their female guise.
That said, there are a few laughs to be had in Sorority Boys—the horny fraternity brother's increasingly desperate attempts to get with Adam/Adina are pretty funny, especially the physics-defying feats he pulls in the process, as if his raging libido somehow overrides the laws of nature (at one point Adam/Adina throws him out a window only to have him smash back through another window on the other side of the room). The guys-walking-in-women's-shoes gags are pretty rote, with a few chuckles, but not much more.
Of course, the movie has to push its "lesson," and here it is a form of male awakening in which the guys learn not about how all women should be treated with respect, but how different women should be treated with respect and others maligned. So, even though K.O.K.s learns that the D.O.G.s aren't so bad after all, they still have to leave an entire other sorority of pretty, but shallow, girls literally floating out in the middle of the ocean. The problem of misogyny hasn't been solved in the end, but merely transferred.
Copyright © 2002 James Kendrick