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PUMPKIN (2002) (***1/2)

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I read a lot of the public's reviews of movies on The first review listed for PUMPKIN loathes it. That person called it the worst movie of the year. You may hate it also, but I think it's one of the best. Some films that skirt the edge will get mixed reactions, especially if people just don't get it. The movie is a cross between HAROLD & MAUDE and a John Waters film (POLYESTER). It's not subtle and by no means is it PC about its subject matter.

The film follows super peppy sorority member, Carolyn McDuffy (Christina Ricci, SLEEPY HOLLOW) as she and her sorority sisters plan how they're going to win Sorority of the Year. They talk about how they desperately need to recruit the pretty "black" girl and the white looking "Filipino" girl because the Greek council likes diversity. But the crowning moment is their choice of charity work — coaching handicapped and retarded kids for the Challenged Games. Carolyn doesn't like the idea at all. She is assigned Pumpkin Romanoff (Hank Harris, MERCURY RISING), a wheelchair bound boy who can barely talk. At first, Carolyn is completely disgusted with Pumpkin because he makes her feel so uncomfortable. But soon enough she starts to like him, even setting him up on a double date with her and her big-man-on-campus, tennis star boyfriend Kent Woodlands (Sam Ball, THE LAST CASTLE).

Carolyn is extremely shallow and often clueless. Ricci is so sly and droll in this role. She plays all the notes perfectly, never going too far into camp. The film presents all the "touching" moments as having ulterior motives. The film is ruthless in its skewering of Greek life, privileged people and the concept that love can concur all. The film leads to an inevitable confrontation between Pumpkin and Kent at a dance, which in a lesser film would have been the end, but this one pushes the envelope, completely destroying films with overly sappy tragic-turned-fell-good endings.

Though it may not be successful throughout, it's brave and sells its points well. Directors Anthony Abrams and Adam Larson Broder, who penned the script, never pull their punches. Just when you think, "They won't go there," they go there and further. The film is not for the tame, but if you want to laugh and if you hate sappy "Movie of the Week" type films then this is going to be a treat for your eyes and ears.

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Rick DeMott
Animation World Network
Creator of Rick's Flicks Picks