American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
The laugh in "Stealing Harvard" comes early, when we see the name of the company where the hero works. It's a home health-care corporation named Homespital. That made me laugh. It made me smile again when the name turned up later. And on the laugh-meter, that's about it. This is as lax and limp a comedy as I've seen in a while, a meander through worn-out material.
Jason Lee, who can be engaging in the right material (like "Chasing Amy" and "Almost Famous") is bland and disposable here, as John Plummer, a young Homespital executive. The firm is owned by his fiancee's father (Dennis Farina), who subjects John to savage cross-examinations on whether he has slept with his daughter. He lies and says he hasn't. He might be telling the truth if he said he wishes he hadn't, since the fiancee, Elaine (Leslie Mann), inexplicably weeps during sex.
Despite his foray into the middle classes, John has not forgotten his super-slut sister Patty (Megan Mullally), who despite a life of untiring promiscuity has a daughter, Noreen (Tammy Blanchard), who has been accepted by Harvard. Carefully preserved home videos show John promising to help with her tuition, and as it happens Noreen needs $29,000--almost exactly the amount Elaine has insisted John have in the bank before she will marry him.
Crime is obviously the way to raise the money, according to John's best pal, Duff (Tom Green), who suggests a break-in at a house where the safe seems to stand open. The owner is, alas, at home, and there is a painfully unfunny sequence in which he forces John to dress in drag and "spoon" to remind him of his late wife. There's another botched robbery in which John and Duff, wearing ski masks, argue over which one gets to call himself Kyle, and so on.