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"These are the best years of your life. You get four years, enjoy them. 'Cause after that, you're fucked."
Uncle Ben

A 2006 teen comedy film directed by Steve Pink, starring Justin Long and Jonah Hill.

Bartleby Gaines (Long) has a problem. His parents want him to go to college, and he has applied to every college he knows of — but all of them have given him a polite "thanks, but no" letter in response. Bartleby is smart and innovative, two talents he has turned to such ventures as making fake IDs and pulling pranks, but which do not, sadly, extend to his grades.

His friends Rory (Maria Thayer), Glen (Adam Herschman), and Hands (Columbus Short) are in the same boat as him, but all for their own reasons. Hands, though accepted to numerous colleges, lost his football scholarship when he broke his leg and can no longer afford to attend the schools where he applied. Glen was not accepted anywhere due to his score of "0" on the SAT's. Rory was the most academically competent of the group, and could have gotten into numerous prestigious universities, except she had only applied to Yale, which did not accept her. What can they do?

Well, if every college has rejected them, they can make up their own, of course. With the help of Sherman (Hill), who has been accepted into the prestigious Harmon College, they make a fully-functional website for their fake school, and turn an abandoned mental hospital into a college building. They put forth Sherman's irascible Uncle Ben (Lewis Black) as the dean. Their parents are happy. Our heroes are happy.

Now they have a new problem: The "fake" website automatically sends an acceptance letter to any and all applicants — and now they have hundreds of fellow rejects to deal with. But Bartleby has a plan. Bartleby always has a plan. Now he has to figure out what that plan is...

This film provides examples of:

  • Abandoned Hospital: Turned into a college building for the ruse.
  • The Alcoholic: It's played for laughs, but Bartleby's mom has a drinking problem. Foreshadowing the character of Betty White by a few years.
  • Alliterative Name: Monica Moreland (Blake Lively). Also Sherman Schrader and Hands Holloway.
  • Alone in a Crowd: Bartleby's reaction to Harmon College during his visit to find out how colleges work.
  • Artistic License – Engineering: Pulling a fire alarm should not activate the water sprinklers in a building.
  • Artistic License – Religion: After the college is authorized by the Ohio Accreditation Board to continue on for another year, in the kitchen Glen calls out to his staff for "Someone get a Rabbi to bless this turkey. This year we're going to go Kosher!", except the turkey is already dead and in a bowl! The animal is considered Kosher to eat if the slaughtering is done in a specific manner, and if the animal has certain specified characteristics, but most importantly those checks have to be done before it is slaughtered. A Rabbi cannot bless an animal to make it Kosher after it has been killed. Also to mention the kitchen itself has to be operating as and deemed to be Kosher itself by a Rabbi to be considered fit to serve Jewish people who keep a Kosher diet. Though considering this is Glen we're talking about, he probably is unaware of that fact until someone points it out to him.
  • Artistic License – University Admissions:
    • The whole student body of the fake school was rejected for one reason or another from legitimate universities, Schrader mentions throughout the film just how illegal and crazy their actions are. In the end, it saves them, since he applied for accreditation just in case something happened.
    • Glen managing to get a 0 on the SAT test. The SAT has a minimum score of 200 for each section, which means that the lowest possible score, even if someone intentionally wrote in the wrong answer every time, is a 400—600 at the time this movie came out. Also counts as Readings Are Off the Scale.
    • For some reason, the idea of going to community college (either for an associate degree/professional certificate or to earn transfer credits and apply to a four year later) is never brought up for Bartelby or any of the S.H.I.T. attendees. Even though community college is free, fully legitimate by default, and pretty much takes in everyone who graduated high school.
  • As Himself: Lewis Black plays a deeply nihilistic asshole version of himself as the dean of SHIT.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Meet Abernathy. Abernathy is... Abernathy.
    Abernathy: Hi there! What's your name? My name's Abernathy Darwin Dunlap but you can call me A.D.D. on the account of the fact that I have A.D.D., which is attention deficit disorder. You know — everyone used to think it was just an addiction to sugar when I was 6 and my mom used to cry because she thought I would never be like a fully functioning member of society like my neighbor who has Legionnaires' disease. [snickers]
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Bartleby's sister, the overachiever to his underachier. Played with in that Bartleby is a deeply-flawed character such that she sometimes come off as the more sympathetic one.
  • Becoming the Mask: Uncle Ben and his role as the fake Dean. It takes him a bit, though:
    "Look, we throw a lot of fancy words in front of these kids in order to attract them to going to school in the belief that they're gonna have a better life, and we know that all were doing is breeding a whole new generation of buyers and sellers, BUYERS AND SELLERS! Pimps and whores, PIMPS AND WHORES! And indoctrinating them into a life long hell of debt and indecision!"
    • The entire college is this. By the end, it's on a probationary accreditation, and from what we see it looks like it's going to meet just the right balance of being a "real" college and bringing its new approach to the table.
  • Book Dumb: Bartleby is academically inept, but he can be quite crafty. Many of the South Harmon students are also this: they don't have conventional brilliance, but Bartleby gives them the freedom to develop other skills.
  • Brick Joke: A student wishing to major in "Mental Detonation" is last seen concentrating very hard on various objects, without obvious result. His efforts come to fruition at the very end of the movie (See Psychic Powers, below)
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Bartleby.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Many of the S.H.I.T. students turn out to be legitimately talented people when given the opportunity to polish their talents, despite being a bunch of weirdoes, but the standout example is Glen, who turns out to be a world-class, fiercely original chef, despite struggling to follow a conversation across a street and making culinary choices that could charitably be called "unorthodox."
  • Butt-Monkey: Sherman, to the nth. He can barely manage a conversation until the third act, when everyone acknowledges he's the Only Sane Man and the true consigliere of SHIT.
  • Calvin Ball: South Harmon's curriculum, at first.
  • The Con: While the goal is not theft, Bartleby's efforts to fool his parents play out like a classic film con job. Subverted in that the con becomes the reality.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Well, more like Cluster S Bomb. The PG-13 Movie uses the word Shit sixty-two times, one hundred less than the South Park Episode It Hits The Fan. Again, it's PG-13.
  • Cool Uncle: Ben, Sherman's uncle, who becomes the Dean.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Rory, who only applied to Yale and didn't get in, leaving her without a college to go to.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Schrader has shades of this, most notably when first entering the abandoned asylum.
  • Dean Bitterman: The Harmon College Dean Richard Van Horne, obsessed with expanding the school's area and expecting his student body henchman to be a spineless Yes-Man.
  • Dumbass Has a Point:
    • Despite his other issues (see invokedStrawman Has a Point) Bartleby has a point that American culture (and popular culture, this movie included) places an exorbitant emphasis on teenagers "needing" to go to college and get into a "good" school, which in turn puts so much pressure on students that it often turns them into "stress freaks and caffeine addicts". Bartleby's parents' repeated exclamation of "He's thrown his life away" really hammers home just what the average American feels and the fact that his sister, Lizzie, is already in college prep courses and exhibits Troubling Unchildlike Behaviour especially for someone who looks like they're only 10.
    • While some of the students just pick hormonal pursuits like looking at girls or weird esoterica like trying to develop explosive mental superpowers, lots of them instead end up working on artistic projects and actively trying to cultivate themselves; it's mentioned that the rock and roll "course" also branched into musical history. While the wild and wooly way the film portrays it is an obvious exaggeration, there is a legitimate argument to be made there about letting the student chart the course of their own education.
  • Embarrassing Initials: The rejected students (who live in Harmon) created their own college, and Bartleby gave it the "ideal" name for it: South Harmon Institute of Technology. This was immediately lampshaded by his friends, of course.
  • Epic Fail: Glen getting a 0 for his SAT score, a test where you're guaranteed a minimum score of 600 upon completion - the only way to negate it is by not doing it or not entering your name on the test.
  • Everyone Has Standards: When Lizzie blackmails Bartleby so that she'll keep the secret about SHIT from their parents, she demands $20,000, but then a Razor scooter and a fake ID after some negotiation with Bartleby, who is initially hesitant about giving his younger sister a fake ID because he thinks that she'll use it for underaged drinking. However, she explains she wanted to use it to votes and he's okay with making an ID for that.
  • Fake–Real Turn: When the students who applied to South Harmon start thanking Bartleby for the opportunity at higher learning that they otherwise didn't have, it inspires Bartleby to stop thinking of South Harmon as a way to get his parents off his back and instead as a real organization to help out people otherwise locked out of higher education.
  • For the Evulz: The Dean of Harmon College wants to expand the school to merely maximize the number of applications they can reject.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The fake school is called South Harmon Institute of Technology.
    You do realize that that makes us "shit", right?
    • And the school color? Brown.
    • School Mascot: the sandwich.
    • The School Newspaper: The SHIT Rag.
    • Later on, the characters and students even start calling themselves "SHIT heads" as a symbol of pride.
  • Genius Ditz: As weird as Glen may be, he turns out to be a talented chef capable of making great food.
  • Gone Horribly Right: In order to make his father get off his case about not getting accepted into any college, Bartleby recruits his friends to make it seem as though they have been accepted into the fictional South Harmon Institute of Technology, with Sherman being given the job of creating a fake website that makes the fake college seem like a credible institution. At first it seems as though the team is out of the woods after Bartleby's family buys the ruse and leaves him to enjoy slacking off with his similarly-rejected friends, but not long after does Bartleby realize that Sherman's website, which said anyone could be accepted with just one click, worked too well when hundreds of rejected college applicants show up at their doorstep because South Harmon was the only college they applied to that accepted them.
    Bartleby: I told you to make the website look legitimate, not functional!
    Sherman: Hey, you wanted to fool your dad and the guy's not an idiot! And, also, it was your idea to put "Acceptance is just one click away"!
    Bartleby: Yeah, yeah, yeah! Put it as one click away, you don't make it clickable!
  • Harsher in Hindsight: The film takes on a far darker feel today, now that fake colleges have become commonplace scams and hundreds of thousands of people have had their lives ruined by them.
  • High-School Hustler: Bartleby, who got his start with making fake IDs during high school, and who manages to completely fool his parents into thinking South Harmon was real.
  • Impossibly Delicious Food: After first recoiling from Glen's "Wads," everyone who tastes them declares them to be the most delicious thing they've ever eaten.
  • Indy Ploy: The premise for the entire film. Bartleby fakes an acceptance letter and a website. Uh oh, now dad wants to see the building! Oh, Crap!, now he wants to meet the dean! Oh, Crap!, you made the website functional?!
    Rory: What's he doing?
    Hands: I think he's winging .
    • In fact, for the hearing at the end, their defense is entirely based on Bartleby's ability to extemporize. And he didn't know that going in.
  • Idiot Ball: Rory, we love you, but you only applied to ONE college? (and an incredibly selective Ivy League school at that?)
  • Initiation Ceremony: "Ask me about my wiener!"
  • Ivy League for Everyone: Averted. Rory emphatically did not get into Yale to which she apparently had been trying to get into since the first grade. She expected to be a shoo-in and hadn't applied anywhere else.
  • Kavorka Man: Glen is a pudgy, awkward guy with a Jew-fro. He manages to bag the three hottest girls at SHIT, who are even seen demanding he choose between them, as it's not fair to keep stringing them all along. The next morning, he's sleeping on a pool float with all three cuddled up to him in their underwear.
  • Kick the Dog: The guys at Harmon repeately humiliate Sherman, who's desperate to get into a fraternity there. Making him wear a hot dog suit and betraying Bartleby, causing South Harmon to close.
  • Large Ham: Uncle Ben, played by Lewis Black, who only has one volume - extremely angry and shouting.
  • Made of Explodium: Majoring in mental detonation FTW.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: At the end of the movie, the resident Dean Bitterman is heading to his car when it spontaneously explodes for no reason. The weird kid who took a class on blowing things up with his mind takes responsibility, but it could just as easily have been a coincidence. We'll never know for sure, since the film ends after that.
  • Mess on a Plate: Glen's "Wads" - everyone initially recoils at their appearance, which could most charitably be described as "brown lumps with chunky bits."
  • Minor with Fake I.D.: When Lizzie figures out that Bartleby's college is a sham, she blackmails him, first for $20,000 dollars, then is argued down to his Razor scooter and a fake ID. A horrified Bartleby refuses to give her something to buy alcohol, before she clarifies she doesn't want it to drink... she wants it to vote.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: I.E., most film makers are artists. Played very straight. Whenever someone is shown being interested in a real subject (real as in not "exploding things with your mind" or the like), the subject will always be a fine or culinary art (photography, sculpting, cooking, music, etc.) It is even implied that someone (the leader of the accreditation board) who chose a non-art-related career path only did so because his university took away his creativity (which turns out to be right, he wanted to play trombone).
    • The only mention of anything else is Sherman's quick line of "I'm teaching Skepticism 401." at the end, which at least implies some cursory interest in science, philosophy and rationality. And the heads of some of the other artistic courses mention that they end up studying the history of their arts during the year.
      • This makes sense, though, as most of those students that had an interest in more rational, scientific schools of thought would probably have been accepted to the established universities to begin with. So it's reasonable that the first year (perhaps not subsequent years) at S.H.I.T. would consist mostly of those with no interest in those other subjects.
  • Never Recycle a Building: The hospital has been sitting around for who knows how long before the kids decide to appropriate it.
  • Noodle Incident:
    Bartleby: Remember that time we had to steal my mom's birth control?
    Sherman: And then Lizzy was born?

    Bartleby : Schrader, come on. Don't be scared.
    Sherman: Scared? I'm not scared. You're scared.
    Hands: Schrader, you were scared to try the new flavor of Dr. Pepper.
    Sherman: I told you that in confidence, Hands!
    Bartleby: Schrader, you were afraid when your tooth fell out because you were terrified of the Tooth Fairy.
    Sherman: That's actually a legitimate fear. She was rifling through my shit.
  • Oh, Crap!: Bartleby is on the edge of shitting himself when "Dean Lewis" goes into an unhinged, anti-capitalist rant in front of his family. After some Character Development, he more restrainedly doesn't shit himself when his fake college scheme is revealed at the end of the second act.
  • Only Sane Man: Sherman constantly tries to tell Bartleby and the others how stupid and illegal their actions are.
    • In the end, his worry-warting saves them, as he applied for accreditation in case something happened.
  • Odd Friendship: Bartleby the scam artist, Sherman the heavyset nerd, Hands the (former) high school football star (good enough for a college football scholarship before the career ending injury), Rory the perfectionist who was convinced she would only have to apply to Yale and would automatically be accepted based on her vigorous work ethic, and Glen the Cloud Cuckoolander were all good friends even before becoming desperate enough to start up a fake college together to fool their parents.
    Hands: Schrader, you were scared to try the new flavor of Dr. Pepper.
    Sherman: I told you that in confidence, Hands!
  • Peek-a-Boo Corpse: ... Hilarity Ensues during the hospital clean-up.
  • Precision F-Strike: After "Dean Lewis" explains to Bartleby's parents the real reason kids go to college is the hopes that education, or at least the degree from the college, will lead to a good, well paying job and they accept that explanation.
    Jack Gaines: I couldn't agree more.
    Diane Gaines: It's so refreshing to have somebody approach education so rationally.
    Uncle Ben: Fuckin' A! (Bartleby's parents look on with confusion at Dean Lewis after that response)
    • Also the page quote above that Dean Lewis was giving to students in his lecture at the end of the film, though that was bleeped out at the end due to the 'one fuck limit' in PG-13 films.
  • Prison Rape: Ben states to Gates that "you're young, your butt can take it" after he states he would go to prison if their plan doesn't work.
  • Professional Slacker: Uncle Ben starts as one, even if he might have had more ambition in the past:
    Girl: Can you sign a copy of your book for me. I got it on eBay.
    Ben: They sell my shit on eBay?
    Hands: You wrote a book?
    Ben: Yeah, that was back when I was drinking. (he takes a shot)
  • Properly Paranoid: Sherman is constantly afraid that the truth of South Harmon is going to land them all into huge trouble. Given that it's skirting legality on several fronts, he's not off-base. This also results in him taking steps to legitimize the entire enterprise, setting up the film's climax.
  • Psychic Powers: One of the students at South Harmon wants to major in Mental Detonation. To everyone's surprise, he apparently makes a car explode during a credits gag (Incidentally, said car also belonged to the dean of the rival school who tried to have Bartleby's school invalidated).
  • Pulling the Thread: Bartleby's Annoying Younger Sibling keeps asking questions during the tour of the school in the first act. Including noting the bars on the windows to prevent the institutes former patients from escaping and pulling the restraints out from under the bed.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: SHIT is an entire institution dedicated to this. Bartleby starts it by accident but he leans in and acknowledges it as a strength.
  • Readings Are Off the Scale: Glen's 0 on the SAT - 400 is the minimum score one can get on it.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Bartleby accidentally starts a college, and when he learns that he's surrounded by fellow losers and rejects, he runs with it.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The head of the accreditation board makes it clear that he believes that education ought to follow strict guidelines. But he does see the value of experimentation, and gives Bartleby probationary accreditation to see if his ideas of running a school can work.
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: Sherman.
    Sherman: It would be really cool if you guys didn't tell anyone I scream like that...
  • Setting Update: As explained in this article, Accepted is basically an update of Camp Nowhere set in college.
  • Shout-Out: Doubles as a minor Actor Allusion when Bartleby mentions that anything could be done with "can-do attitude and some elbow grease."
    • The college accreditation board has an "A. Visser" as a member.
  • Significant Wardrobe Shift: For the first half of the movie, Monica wears a lot of pastels. After she breaks up with Hoyt, she wears a lot more brown, one of the colors of South Harmon.
  • Slobs Versus Snobs: The uptight and impeccably-dressed leadership of Harmon College against the eclectic and mismatched South Harmon applicants.
  • Smug Snake: The entire Harmon faculty.
  • Sound-Effect Bleep: At the end, an F-bomb is bleeped out, to keep it from being rated R.
  • Start My Own: Although Bartleby's scheme starts out as a way to deceive his father, Bartleby gradually becomes invested in building a school that bucks the conventions of the American education system.
  • Stealth Pun: The mascot of S.H.I.T. is a sandwich.
    • And the school paper is the S.H.I.T. Rag.
  • Supreme Chef: Say what you will about its appearance, but Glen's food is always complimented by whoever eats it. Appropriately, he's in charge of the entire school's cafeteria at the end.
  • Take That!: The film is an epic level fuck you to the modern job-oriented education system. Glen loves food and for the first time in his life, he's allowed to just explore food. Meanwhile, in "real school", Monica can't actually take any photography classes because some are only for journalism majors and some are only for art majors and she's stuck in the middle, wanting to take pretty pictures sometimes and meaningful pictures other times. Then we have Rory, whose life has been dedicated to "doing the right thing", only to get fucked by not getting accepted to her one school. And there's Hand, who tried to follow one of the few paths allowed to black men and athlete his way out of poverty, only to get injured, but who discovers his passion for art when given the freedom to explore his dreams. Oh, and Bartleby, who doesn't actually have a dream, but who discovers his joy in enabling others to find their bliss by founding an institution where they can explore their desires, rather than follow the random gray assigned to them by capitalism.
  • Technician vs. Performer: Harmon is a conventionally run educational institution with professional teachers and staff, but its students are weighed down by an intolerant and inflexible campus culture. Bartleby has zero educational background to speak off and his "students" are not academically gifted. But Bartleby stumbles into creating a campus culture that places experimentation and creativity above a strict curriculum. Soon enough, the South Harmon students begin to flourish and develop all sorts of cool ideas.
  • Telepathic Sprinklers: Apparently pulling a fire alarm in the school turns on the sprinklers instead of sounding off a loud alarm and automatically alerting the fire department.
  • The Dog Bites Back: After Sherman has enough of the guys at Harmon's treatment, he decides to apply to have South Harmon be accredited.
  • This Is What the Building Will Look Like: Used in an early scene by Dean Van Horn to show off his planned gateway to Hoyt.
  • Truth in Television: The Dean of Harmon College says that the key to the success of a college is to get as many applicants as possible and then reject as many as possible to portray exclusivity. This might sound like evil ranting, but, unfortunately, this is actually how colleges try to make money, and it crosses into real life invokedParanoia Fuel.
  • Unconventional Electives 101: This is how the fictitious South Harmon Institute of Technology operates. Bartelby opens up the floor for those who were accepted to the school to create courses to their liking, in some cases, even taught by those students who originally proposed them. Courses include "Faking It 101", "Mo Money 555", and "Advanced Skepticism 401", among others.
  • Verbed Title
  • Wacky Fratboy Hijinx: This is the Millennial version of Animal House, only everyone is Animal House.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Bartleby to his dad who was always a hardass to him.
  • Willing Suspension of Disbelief: In no way could anything in the movie be remotely possible. But if you turn off your thoughts it makes it easy to enjoy the film.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Bartleby didn't intend to start a fake college, he just wanted to get his parents off his back. Only then Sherman "made it clickable", and he decided to lean in and make it an actual college. But then the local college took offense and there are all these "laws" and he has to keep playing the game, with Sherman's help.
  • Zany Scheme: The original plot, of making it look like the protagonists got accepted into a local college by fixing up an old mental institution and setting up a website to fool their parents, only to backfire into having to actually set up a makeshift college when tons of desperate education seekers end up flocking to them.