It definitely sucks to be Eli Pettifog (Alex Wolff). He's 13 years old and off to his first day of college. Of course it isn't his beloved Harvard college they rejected him. His mother (Parker Posey) just doesn't seem to care about him at all and he's stuck taking a bus to the "37th best small liberal arts college on the east coast." Immediately he meets Leo (Brendan Fraser) a 41 year old self proclaimed "late bloomer" who is running away from his own life's wreckage to enroll at Whitman college.
Eli's disappointment grows as he is bullied by a jock and Eli's dreams of Harvard turn to thoughts of revenge after The Harvard Mastermind team that he roots for humiliate him as they are leaving the Whitman campus. This is what motivates him to take over Whitman's Mastermind team (The Whitman Warring Hares) in order to exact his revenge.
Fraser and Wolff do a fine job portraying the lead characters as well as the supporting cast members. There are even a few funny and touching scenes in the film. It seems like this film wants to combine the intelligence and quirkiness of films like Napoleon Dynamite and Rushmore with the classic underdog movies of the 80's like "Revenge of the Nerds' and Karate Kid while also turning them on their heads. Maybe that was the trouble. Although Billy Kent had some critical success with 2006's "The Oh in Ohio", The writing here seemed stilted as well as the direction. You never see or hear from his mother (Parker Posey) after the first two minutes, the bully jock Laird (Michael Oberholtzer) that doesn't seem to play a certain sport and for some reason calls a truce and hugs Eli while naked in the shower (he then becomes the Mastermind team mascot) to the sudden introduction of Leo's daughter (that he hasn't seen since she was seven and is now becoming a student at Whitman) and his gambling. The last part of the movie just felt like things were thrown in for needed plot complications, without any for shadowing. Even Eli's love interest Shauna (Julia Garner) goes three quarters of the movie loving him and Whitman college before she finds out he has become the campus celebrity for his talent at winning the collegiate mastermind games?
So even though this movie has good acting, a couple of funny even charming moments and potential it never quite achieves the academic greatness it strives for, so I have to give it 3 out of 5 sheepskins. Hairbrained opens in theaters this weekend.