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Film / Orange County

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Shaun: But I have to go to college.
Cindy: WHY?
Shaun: Because that's what you do after high school!.

Orange County is a 2002 teen comedy written by Mike White, directed by Jake Kasdan and starring Colin Hanks, Jack Black, and Schuyler Fisk.note  Also in the cast are Catherine O'Hara, John Lithgow, Lily Tomlin, and Harold Ramis, among others.

Shaun Brumder (Colin Hanks) is just another surfer kid from Orange County, living with his Dysfunctional Family and getting high until his best friend Lonny dies in a surfing accident and he begins to seek more purpose in life. He then discovers a book on the beach, which changes his perspective. Discontented with his family, his school, and pretty much everyone in Orange County, he dreams of becoming an accomplished writer and works hard in high school in order to achieve his dream of studying with his idol, Marcus Skinner, at Stanford. However, his application is rejected due to an administrative error on the part of his college counselor, and he tries to get into Stanford via any means necessary with the help of his family and his girlfriend. Hilarity Ensues.

Not to be confused with The O.C., which is unrelated despite the same setting.

This film contains examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Cindy, Shaun and Lance's mom, mainly due to divorcing Bud.
  • Artistic License – Geography: Lance claims he could get Shaun and Ashley to Stanford "in 3 hours". Anyone familiar with the California coastline knows it would take twice that time at minimum even if Lance Drives Like Crazy. The distance from Orange County to Stanford is about 644 km (400 miles) meaning Lance would have be consistently traveling over 214 km/h (133 mph) to get there in 3 hours. Of course, it's most likely that Lance simply just miscalculated.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Lance is normally a moocher who hangs around doing drugs. He also pulls Shaun out of the pool when the latter tries to drown himself.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Shaun, before Lonny's death. Afterward, he throws himself into his schoolwork to make something of his life. He compromises at the end, still being a good student but deciding to surf again.
  • College Is "High School, Part 2": Realized when he sees similar cliques at Stanford doing exactly the same things he hates about high school.
  • The Cameo:
    • Ben Stiller appears as a fireman who comes across Lance, who burned down the Stanford admissions building. He sees right through the lie that Lance tells him about how the building burned down, and he advises the authorities to be on a look-out for him.
    • Chevy Chase is Shaun's lecherous high school principal.
    • Kevin Kline as Marcus Skinner, a renowned writer who Shaun hopes to study under at Stanford.
  • Creator Cameo: Screenwriter Mike White plays Shaun's English teacher Mr. Burke whom Shaun suspects may be illiterate.
  • Divorce Is Temporary: Bud and Cindy work out their differences and get back together.
  • Downer Beginning: The movie starts with Shaun recalling out Lonny drowned while surfing. It does get lighter from there, oddly enough.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Lance.
  • Dysfunctional Family
  • Extremely Short Timespan: Plot occurs all in one days time.
  • Fantasy-Forbidding Father: Bud doesn't approve of Shaun's aspiration to become a writer.
  • Fiction 500: Shaun is part of this; no one expects him to work or make something of his life because he and his friends come from extremely wealthy families. Heck, with how Shaun is determined to be a writer, he's more concerned about telling good stories than about building a career out of it with freelance or releasing books.
  • Gold Digger: Cindy, and Bud's new wife Krista, and neither pretend to be anything but.
    Cindy: So I married Bob, for you! I had sex with Bob four times for you! So how can you call me a bad mother?
  • Granola Girl: Ashley is obsessed with saving endangered animals.
  • Hard Truth Aesop: Shaun learns the hard way that college is not a guarantee that he'll become a successful writer. He sees that enough students at Stanford party as much as the kids at Orange County, and the writer Marcus Skinner tells him that he doesn't need to go to a top school to build his career. While the college in Orange County is not Ivy-League material, he can do well there because of his skills and drive.
  • Heroic Safe Mode: Shaun has been repressing his grief since Lonny died. He stops surfing and radically changes his behavior to try and deal with the sadness, meaningless of life, and the inevitability of death. Part of the reason that everyone doesn't take his goal to attend Stanford seriously is that they peg his mental state as being in mourning. The movie ends with him deciding to surf again, showing that he's accepted Lonny's death while deciding to make meaning out of his life.
  • Ignorant About Fire: Lance and the admissions office girl are high and discussing their childhoods as pyromaniacs. Lance accidentally sets the curtain on fire and the two lazily giggle and boredly say, "Put that out." The building burns down completely.
  • Intoxication Ensues: The Dean of Admissions takes three hits of ecstasy, mistaking them for aspirin.
  • Ironic Echo Cut:
    Shaun: *narrating* My friends think I've lost my mind.
    Arlo: He's lost his mind!
  • Ivy League for Everyone: Zig-Zagged. Shaun's counselor gets his amazing transcript mixed up with that of a similarly named student, Shane, who has a pitifully low GPA and SAT score. And because of that mix-up, Shane got into Stanford when it should actually be Shaun. Made all the funnier in that Shane only applied to Stanford as a joke.
    • Played straight with Tanya who got into Stanford via family ties as well as her valley girlish friend Dana who got accepted to Yale.
    • Triple subverted with Shaun who ultimately decides to stay in Orange County despite his parents managing to get him into Stanford after all the calamity when he realizes it's his eccentric group of family and friends that inspire him as a writer. He decides to go to the local college instead.
  • Jerkass: Shaun's father Bud, who abandoned his first family to marry a younger Trophy Wife, and disapproves of his dream to be a writer. He gets better over the course of the movie, though.
  • May–December Romance: Shaun's parents and step-parents.
  • Most Writers Are Writers
  • Not So Above It All: Stanford is one of the most prestigious and selective universities accepting only the "best and the brightest" or the "future leaders of America". However, Shaun quickly learns that, as far as the student life is concerned, it's nothing more than a glorified party school.
  • Place Worse Than Death: How Shaun views Orange County, due to its Stepford Suburbia qualities.
  • Precision F-Strike: Averted with Shaun's dad. Inverted with Lance, as Jack Black manages to sneak the f-word in so casually it's hardly noticeable.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The high school counselor, who gets Shaun's transcript mixed up with another student's, leading to the plot of the rest of the movie, and does nothing to remedy this.
  • Only Sane Man: Shaun, so bad.
  • Pyromaniac: Lance reveals he is one as he burns down the Admissions Building at Stanford.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: In-universe. Shaun's story is practically an autobiography as his characters are clearly modeled off his family and friends.
  • Really Gets Around: Tanya, the popular girl at school who seemingly has no standards and is prone to start making out with anyone, (male and female).
  • Stepford Smiler: Cindy.
  • Surfer Dude: Shaun to begin with, Arlo and Chad throughout.
  • Sweet and Sour Grapes: After the wild night and getting back home, Shaun finds out that his parents reconcile and his dad pulled some strings to get him into Stanford. Then he thinks about what Marcus Skinner told him about how he doesn't need to go to a good college to learn how to write. Shaun tells his family and girlfriend that he's staying in Orange County and going to the local UC school.
  • The Slacker: Lance, who is post-high school, unemployed, on parole, and spends all day stoned watching Spongebob Squarepants.
  • The Stoner: Lance (of course), Arlo and Chad.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Shaun's motivation for wanting to get out of Orange County.
  • Those Two Guys: Arlo and Chad, Shaun's two friends.
  • Title Drop: Naturally all throughout.
  • To Absent Friends: Lonny's wake.
  • Valley Girl: Ashley is a mild one, but all the other girls in Shaun's high school are extreme valley girls.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Shaun wants his Dad to support his ambitions of becoming a writer.