“You can never turn a profit in a market this saturated”
To view a collegiate short film with a critical eye—this being the filmmakers’ Quinnipiac University senior capstone project—is a tough thing to do when outside of the educational setting and not necessarily privy to the time and effort put forth like a teacher in charge. It’s easy to simply dismiss amateurish performances and hamfisted scripting as lapses in quality without looking at the big picture of where everyone is coming from. We Just Want to Play isn’t going to be showing at local multiplexes nor is it aspiring for awards; it’s the result of a group of students working hard to create something of which they can be proud.
Written by Frank De Rosa and directed by James Cappadoro, this short comedy homage to National Lampoon’s Animal House wears its shortcomings on its sleeve out of necessity and not laziness. You use what you have at your disposal and have a great time doing it—something the outtakes prove true for this group. The downside to this is that one finds it difficult to really see true intention when the delivery mechanism is obviously tainted by inexperience and a lack of options. To watch college kids speak their lines with even the slightest amount of stiffness can be distracting to the jokes, the meaning, and ultimately the words themselves.
The film is a fun update of material that takes Animal House’s soon-to-be-shutdown frat house of eccentrics and turns it into a Ruckland University rugby team playing beyond their talents. A bunch of sex-crazed stoners the school would surely love to prevent from representing them on a national level, these men have unceremoniously found their way into the championship. Unfortunately for them, however, Artistic Director Dickerman (Timothy J. Cox playing his usual snide and smarmy authoritarian) is unimpressed and desperately hoping to strip them of their scholarships to most likely put towards the golf team his son Tim (Andrew Gill) captains. Facing an advisory board vote on whether they’ll remain a school fixture, it’s only a matter of time before their final nail is hammered in.
Responsible Glen (Lars Lee) and depraved miscreant Ray (Trevor Williams) look to rally the team together by joining an Olympiad event with prize money to get them to the title game regardless, but nothing seems to go right. This is especially true for guys filming half naked women in hopes of internet notoriety with no qualms about piling white plumes of cocaine on their basement bar. It’s college debauchery at its finest with the good girls needing to escape (Alexandra Bartley’s Whitney) and the reasonable guys still very much complicit in the lewd acts. The co-ed lifestyle depicted is one of contemporary hooligans raised on stories of consequence-free debauchery with little but the endearing nature of their unity to rally around.
Sadly, comedic tropes like zany sports announcers not-so-subtly breaking the fourth wall and freeze-frame heavy exposition seem a hair off. Would more seasoned acting have rendered it more effective? Maybe. Does the ambition to tell a story with so many characters diminish as a result? No. You have to credit these guys for going all in and making a professional looking work despite obvious limitations. Talent is noticeably apparent behind the scenes even if the cast lacks the authenticity necessary to truly see past artifice. But it feels like a college film because it is a college film. While seeing it as more than a welcome beginning for its creators might be misguided, it’s definitely a fun accomplishment as an exercise towards those means.
Watch it for yourself on Vimeo.