Twenty-eight-year-old Jeremy Piven plays an unconvincing college senior in this irreverent lampoon of political correctness run amok.
Written by Adam Leff and Zak Penn and directed by Hart Bochner, PCU (1994) is Animal House for the 1990s. Though in many ways a boilerplate college comedy, it’s unique in calling out and ridiculing PC culture on college campuses. In retrospect, its writers were downright prophetic.
Pre-frosh Tom Lawrence (Chris Young) is visiting Port Chester University for the weekend, where he meets misfits James ‘Droz’ Andrews (Jeremy Piven), Gutter (Jon Favreau), and Katy (Megan Ward), among others, at a former frat house called “The Pit”. These fun-loving students are out of place among the campus protest culture, nurtured and encouraged by college president Ms. Garcia-Thompson (Jessica Walter).
Ms. Garcia-Thompson allies with snobby Rand McPherson (David Spade), leader of a disbanded fraternity who wants their frat house back, to get “The Pit” crew kicked off campus. Can Droz save his love interest, Samantha (Sarah Trigger), from the clutches of man-hating Womynists, unite the student body, and raise enough money to save his friends from eviction before graduation?
Long before campus speech codes and safe spaces became commonplace, PCU satirized this growing trend in academia. Ms. Garcia-Thompson personifies the new college administrator, a buzzword-spewing enforcer obsessed with sensitivity awareness, diversity, and encouraging student grievances. In one scene, she suggests “Bisexual Asian Studies” should have its own building. “The question is, who goes? The Math Department or the hockey team?” she asks with a straight face.
She later replaces the “offensive” Native American school mascot with an endangered whooping crane.
Anyone who has watched Steven Crowder’s “Change my Mind” segments or footage from Ben Shapiro’s campus appearances can see how satire has become reality. Even PCU‘s most ridiculous portrayal of PC students isn’t ridiculous enough for today’s campus activists. Where PCU showed protestors chasing the hapless Tom Lawrence across campus, Ben Shapiro literally had to be escorted off California State University’s campus by police after professors told their students that Shapiro, an Orthodox Jew, was a NAZI.
Yet PCU stakes a middle ground between hysterical protestors and stiff, elitist Young Republicans like a Ben Shapiro. James ‘Droz’ Andrews, the everyman, hopes to unite the students by appealing to a simpler time when college was about having fun, drinking beer, and getting laid. Overbearing administrators were the bad guys, he argues. “It used to be us against them, now it’s us against us.”
This film’s main flaw is how out of place Jeremy Piven looks. He looks 40 years old. Apparently he contracted malaria during filming, lost weight and even passed out. Hardly his fault, but the filmmakers should have given him a break. Someone like Ryan Reynolds would’ve been much better suited for the role.
PCU was not critically or commercially successful, but has remained an underground fan favorite. Though the cultural references and clothing are slightly outdated, its message is even more relevant today than when it was released 25 years ago.