Steve Simels
February 01, 1991 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Freshman

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
PG
performer
Marlon Brando, Matthew Broderick, Bruno Kirby, Penelope Ann Miller, Jon Polito, Frank Whaley, B.D. Wong
director
Andrew Bergman
author
Andrew Bergman
genre
Comedy

We gave it an A

Any movie with Bert Parks singing Bob Dylan’s ”Maggie’s Farm” is, by definition, pretty cool. But this latest effort from writer-director Andrew Bergman, the underappreciated creator of a couple of the sharpest comedies in recent years (The In-Laws, So Fine), is considerably better than cool; The Freshman is the smartest and most slyly amusing American farce in years. The plot — Matthew Broderick is an NYU film student involved with gangsters and a rare- animals scam — is as complicated and absurdist as the best Marx Brothers romps, and Bergman keeps the farcical balls in the air with aplomb throughout. He’s also come up with a succession of memorable characters (Paul Benedict’s pretentious cinema studies prof, B.D. Wong’s pixilated herpetologist) and priceless sight gags (a Komodo dragon casually riding a shopping-mall elevator). As the cream of the jest, he’s handed Marlon Brando the chance to do a wonderfully modulated parody of his famous turn in The Godfather. All in all, you couldn’t ask for a droller 102 minutes. How this one got lost in last summer’s movie shuffle remains a mystery as bafflingly delicious as the secret formula for Orange Julius.

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