Dean Slater: Resident Advisor, directed by Colin Sander, sets out to redeem the genre of college flicks by pushing a message to unplug and enjoy the world around you. Though often crude and sappy, the movie makes up for its missteps with a topical message and entertaining plot.
The film follows freshman Tyler Harris (Nick Renaud) and his two new college roommates, Cory Burton (Glenn McCuen) and Yuji Sokora (Jimmy Wong), during their first weeks of college with infamous resident advisor, Dean Slater (Mitchell Jarvis). The main character Tyler finds himself at fictional Southern California State University after being denied by his dream school, CalTech. Touted as “one of the top 10 party schools in America,” SCSU seems like a death sentence for Tyler. This all changes, however, when the new RA arrives.
RA Dean Slater serves as a living legend at this university, and strives to transform Tyler and the rest of the boys’ college experience. He steps in to put the three guys under his wing and teach them a thing or two about college life. Lessons range from mastering the art of Japanese kendama to hiding your phone battery during a night out of drinking. Among the escapades, Slater mixes in his own philosophical maxims, hoping for the boys to live life in the now and make the most out of college. The boys quickly find themselves inspired by Slater’s Confucius-style wisdom, who encourages them to “drink the party cup of life” and turn their back on phones and Internet.
With a budget of only $1.2 million, the movie’s cinematography is surprisingly well done, with a stellar picture and crisp visuals. Since it was filmed in sunny Southern California at local universities Chapman and Loyola Marymount University, the film can’t help but inspire comparisons to USC college life. The realism is extended by forgoing fake sets, filming instead in genuine college dorm rooms. Additionally, with a cast of mostly unknowns, the film acting is as good any you’d see in Hollywood today. One of USC’s very own, Nathalia Ramos, has a leading role.
Though there is an abundance of potty humor and crude jokes, it’s nothing you wouldn’t expect from a film depicting college life.Dean Slater serves as a defining comedic factor—the character’s advice is timely and hilarious. One of his maxims has to do with doing a “buzz check,” a way of taming yourself before participating in a drunken escapade — something all college students could benefit from.
The film, however, has its flaws. In seeking to revolutionize college comedy, it often finds itself in an identity crisis. The beginning of the movie holds as a stereotypical college film, with scenes depicting games of beer pong and freshman guys out to get lucky. But eventually it digresses to an almost PSA-style attack against modern technology, with the boys suddenly deciding to forgo their smartphones and Internet on Slate’s advice.
As forced as it might be, the film’s message does have some truth. Though it’s depicted in a dramatic manner (at one point the boys flail their smartphones into the Pacific Ocean), one can’t help but notice the unsettling dependence we as college students have on our phones and social media. The movie depicts the boys lost without them, questioning how their lives can move forward without texts of the latest parties and hangouts. They find themselves forced to interact with their classmates on a more intimate level, a phenomenon referred to in the movie as “face looking,” and by the end of the film they’re greater people for it.
On paper, Dean Slater: Resident Advisor has all the signs of a straight-to-DVD B film, but perhaps that’s what makes the film easier to like. Does it have its flaws? Yes. One can’t help but connect with the film and the movie’s central message. Though the film’s themes might be heavy-handed, its timeliness makes it worth a look.
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