The Freshman comes almost at the tail end of the Dryden’s “Gangsters” series (playing every Thursday in May and June). And it certainly gives a strong wink and a nod to gangster movies, but it also pokes fun at academia, foodies, and a few other things along the way.
Here’s the story: Clark Kellogg, young man from rural Vermont moves to New York City to go to film school. Almost as soon as he sets foot in the city he is suckered out of all of his belongings. When Clark finally chases down the thief, the guy attempts to pay Clark back by offering him a job with his Uncle Carmine and that’s when things really start to get interesting.
There are so many reasons to see The Freshman—not least of which is Marlon Brando, as Carmine Sabatini, parodying his own performance, as Don Vito Corleone, from The Godfather. Brando plays his part with such charm and style that he overcomes the risk of it becoming just a one-dimensional joke. Roger Ebert said, “There have been a lot of movies where stars have repeated the triumphs of their parts—but has any star ever done it more triumphantly than Marlon Brando does in The Freshmen? He is doing a reprise here of his most popular character, Don Vito Corleone of The Godfather, and he does it with such wit, discipline and seriousness that it's not a rip-off and it's not a cheap shot, it's a brilliant comic masterstroke." Also, in this film, Marlon Brando ice-dances, yes, ice-dances, and it’s lovely.
Not to be outdone is Matthew Broderick, as Clark Kellogg, who plays the perfect straight man whose been thrown into a crazy situation. He is our utterly relatable and reasonable everyman trying desperately to stumble back out of the trouble that he has managed to stumble into and the audience is just happy to be along for the ride. In addition to Brando and Broderick, the cast is rounded out with wonderful character performances by Bruno Kirby, Penelope Ann Miller, Frank Whaley (who sports an epic pompadour), BD Wong, and Paul Benedict.
But, let’s also not forget the komodo dragon which, because komodo dragons are endangered, was actually played by seven water moniters. One of the funniest, and surreal, moments in the film involves Bert Parks serenading the komodo dragon to the tune of “Here she comes Miss America.” It is the endearing characters as well as moments like these that give this film such charm.