When I began expanding The Legionnaire to include all movies, not just new releases, many of my favorite films of all time were addressed early on in this process. There is one, though, that did not make it onto my blog at that time. That movie is PCU (1994). Admittedly, there have been a few reviews that I have written from memory, their details being burned into my brain. I did not wish to do this with PCU, meaning that I wanted to watch it again before penning my thoughts. There is one problem: it is nearly impossible to find a digital copy, and my DVD collection is currently buried in my dad’s house. I have a theory on why this is the case, and the simplest way to put it is that I blame cancel culture. As you will see from the themes it covers, there is much about it that might ruffle a few feathers today. This is ironic given that this largely the point of the movie, which means everything our heroes fought for has gone for naught.
That sounds dramatic, but PCU has an innocuous beginning. Pre-freshman (referred to as a pre-frosh) Tom Lawrence (Chris Young) arrives at Port Chester University in order to see if he wants to attend the following academic year. His host for the weekend is an infamous house on campus known as “The Pit.” It used to be a fraternity, but sometime in the school’s storied past it outlawed those organizations. The new inhabitants are . . . rough around the edges. Tom enters the main hall of the house and is greeted by a rock band practicing, two guys playing hockey with an ash tray, and somebody else zoning out in front of a television. His confusion is momentarily cleared up when Katy (Megan Ward), the base player, has to repair the house’s overworked fuse box and encounters Tom. She leads him to James “Droz” Andrews (Jeremy Piven), the de facto leader of the house, and who is supposed to be Tom’s guide for his visit. As it turns out, the whole thing is part of a prank played on Droz by Mullaney (Alex Désert) as revenge for Droz hiding milk bones in his fellow senior’s luggage on their way back from a trip to Jamaica. When it becomes clear that Droz cannot pawn his duties off on one of his housemates, he resigns himself to leading Tom out onto campus. The first thing that becomes apparent is that the student body is extremely politically active, protesting all manner of injustices. The most extreme group are the “Cause-Heads,” a collection of people that, as they are described in the film, find a world threatening issue and stick with it . . . for about a week. At this time, their cause celebre is an anti-meat demonstration in front of the school cafeteria. The prompts the denizens of The Pit to gather and dump what would have been made into chili burgers onto the protestors. In the mad dash to escape detection, Tom gets separated and blamed for the attack. He will then go on to spend most of the rest of the movie being chased around campus, and inadvertently pissing off a large portion of the student body with other bumbles. The Cause-Heads take their grievances to the school’s head administrator President Garcia-Thompson (Jessica Walter). She is eager to kick The Pit out, and encourages anyone offended by their actions to put their ire in writing. In order to instill her “politically correct utopia” (note the name of the film), she enlists the help of Rand McPherson (David Spade), the leader of the sole fraternity left on campus known as “Balls & Shaft.” He has his own vendetta against Droz, and the house The Pit occupies used to belong to his fraternity. His contribution to the cause is to gather the damage bill for The Pit’s “anti-community” activities, as President Garcia-Thompson puts it. When she delivers this news to The Pit, which comes with an assessment of $7,000, Droz’s answer is for their house to host a large party and charge attendees at the door. The person taxed with providing alcohol for said soiree is Gutter (Jon Favreau). In turn, he goes to the weed smoking enthusiasts known as Jerrytown for a ride, and never makes it to his goal. When it becomes clear to Droz that Gutter has, once again, proved incapable to completing a given task, he takes it upon himself to pick up the slack for Gutter. Gutter redeems himself, though, when wandering through town he is found by George Clinton (as himself) and the Parliament Funkadelic tour bus, who agree to give him a ride home. They also assent to playing the party, which is needed when half the house’s band accidentally electrocute themselves. Finally, it is Tom who provides the guests, leading the mob of people who have been chasing him to The Pit’s doorstep. Of course, this is exactly when President Garcia-Thompson planned for, and soon the party is shut down by her and campus security. Things appear dark as Rand and Balls & Shaft begin moving in as the revelers exit. In the rush to figure out what to do, it is Tom that comes up with the idea of finding a way to get President Garcia-Thompson fired. The next day is the school’s bicentennial celebration, and Tom and The Pit (band name!) are able to sabotage the proceedings, pin the students’ anger on Rand, and save The Pit. This earns Tom initiation, though he is spared what appears to be torture by the bus that is to take him home.
In my description of PCU, there are a number of inappropriate moments that I skirted. Then again, there is no getting around the name of the one remaining fraternity, albeit being forced to remain underground. Before I go further, I do not condone throwing meat at vegan protestors, wild parties, or a number of other behaviors you see celebrated in this film. However, who am I? I have never been the best evangelizer. I tend to try and inspire others through my example because I feel that when I try to tell people about Christ, it comes off as scolding or too academic. What I find fascinating about this movie (and I also laugh at it) is the stigma attached to it today. It is supposed to be about letting people live their lives instead of condemning the actions of others. In Droz’s impassioned speech at the bicentennial, he reminds his fellow students that it used to be “us against them,” but the political atmosphere on campus has made it “us versus us.” It speaks to a divisiveness in our culture that places personal feelings based on arbitrary identities above those of society broadly. In what Droz says, after a fashion, I see a parallel to the notion that we are all children of God. It is one of many aspects of us as human beings that unite us, and Christianity has preached this from the beginning. To be clear, diversity is something that should be celebrated, and the Church encompasses many systems of belief under the Roman roof. Some of our number have split over the years, and those divisions are unfortunate. Yet, as Droz says elsewhere, there will always be things on which we can all agree. The practicing Christian would go for something less raunchy, of course, but we are still created by God.
I am glad to have finally done this review of PCU. I recommend it only to mature audiences that can handle a little off-color humor. Still, even if you did want to see it, I doubt you will be able to find it. It is remarkable to me the lengths that some segments of our population will go to in order to keep something out of the public’s eye. Or, to give credit to Mullaney, you can only get so far before the PC “shock troops” come to shut you down.