Rites of Passage 

It concerns a group of party-hearty students at the University in Santa Barbara — that's right: in, not of, per the opening scrawl — taking a field trip to a burial ground of the Chumash Indians, a tribe evidently known for shape-shifting and downing toxic, hallucinatory flower tea. Along with much sexual activity and drug intake, the kids encounter not one, but two total nutjobs.

One is played by Wes Bentley (The Hunger Games), who thinks he's a werebear; the other, by Christian Slater in a Torgo hat and wig, who discusses his homicidal tendencies with his imaginary friend, a talking sock monkey named Poncho. (The stuffed animal is voiced by Slater in an accent that brings to mind Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.)

Making his feature directorial debut, W. Peter Iliff (screenwriter of Patriot Games, Point Break and, um, Varsity Blues) is in way over his head. The major problem is not so much one that begins from behind the camera, although each actor approaches the material differently, as if unsure whether the material is thriller or comedy, serious or over-the-top. No, the major problem is his script — one that is so scattershot in interests, it forgets to follow its main path. Iliff seems more interested in staging those stupid, only-in-Hollywood party sequences.

It's not even apparent what that main storyline is. Iliff complicates the setup with so many subplots, including an online porn princess (Ashley Hinshaw, Chronicle), a panic attack-stricken student (Kate Maberly, Boogeyman 3) a professor (Stephen Dorff, Brake) sleeping with a student, a timid guy (Ryan Donowho, Altitude) just trying to get laid, a woman (Briana Evigan, Sorority Row) held captive in her undies, and so on.

And once again, they’re all so patently annoying, one wonders why we should bother spending time with them.

The Blu-ray includes a featurette on the film's making, with the actors fawning over Iliff's script. One producer even states with confidence, "It's going to become a cult classic." I strongly disagree. —Rod Lott

Hey! Read This:
Altitude DVD review    
Brake Blu-ray review  
Chronicle Blu-ray review  
The Hunger Games Blu-ray review    

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Rod Lott

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