How desperate for tenure is Professor Charlie Thurber (Luke Wilson)? He's so desperate that when a Yale University newcomer threatens his previously unopposed run, Charlie winds up serving as the faculty adviser for the erotic poetry club.
Even less popular than his best friend Jay Hadley's Bigfoot Club wherein the mission is to find concrete evidence of Sasquatch in the northeastern United States, Charlie realizes he's going to have to step it up a notch and give into the politicking and publishing tried and true academic model he hates.
Much more content to light an intellectual fire in the brains of his students by teaching them the books that changed his life instead of the endlessly recycled selections included on syllabuses around the country, when it comes right down to it, Charlie is dynamite in the classroom and a passive mess everywhere else.
It's a great return to the same Bottle Rocket style roles that Wilson can instinctively ace in such a way that even when his character and David Koechner's Hadley are toilet papering a house you still love him. And impressively, Tenure from writer/director Mike Million is the best campus comedy since Wonder Boys.
Although it isn't in the same league as Curtis Hanson's superior work, it knows the academia terrain far better than Wilson's Legally Blonde series and Old School movies. Tenure illustrates the competition involved everywhere in academia from the scholarly journals to the break room.
Humorously, it also displays the freewheeling community of a small town college campus where adults sometimes fall into the same arrested development of their students whether it's living in tiny quarters, sleeping on a futon and/or handling parental pressures. And unfortunately for Charlie but fortunately for the movie, in his particular case, he's battling all of these issues at once.
With the enormous shoes of his retired Princeton faculty member tenured father to fill, Wilson's Thurber is caught between the past and the future of remembering why he wanted to go into the profession in the first place to also contemplating the dangers of turning into a “publish or perish” man himself.
A sort of eccentric Office Space for the academic set, Mike Million's beautifully shot film is a tremendous surprise for a straight-to-disc effort in that it had me laughing so hard that my cheeks actually ached afterward. And although you may not feel like joining up with the Bigfoot Club or erotic poetry, Tenure is well-worth pursuing.
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