Rating: **

As the writer and producer of both Grosse Point Blank and High Fidelity, Steve Pink clearly has an affinity for smart, witty, adult comedy.

So why is he making his directing debut with a film co-penned by the writers variously responsible for the clapped out Herbie Fully Loaded and the Olsen twins debacle New York Minute?

To be fair, it's better than either of those but only because it takes Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Animal House, and Revenge of the Nerds as its high school anti-authority template and doesn't mess it up too much.

Justin Long (a guilty party from Herbie, but also one of the few saving graces from Waiting) is slacker Bartleby Gaines, who, having been rejected by every college to which he applied, can't bring himself to tell his pushy parents.

So, with help from obligatory pudgy computer geek best friend Sherman (Jonah Hill), he simply invents one, and prints off a letter of acceptance blithely thinking that'll be the end of his problems.

Naturally, not having thought things through, it's just the start. To keep dad from rumbling the ruse, he, Sherman and new recruit to the scam Rory (Maria Theyer), have to first transform an abandoned mental hospital (lunatics/asylum scenario anyone?) into the fake college and then enlist Sherman's uncle Ben (Lewis Black), a disgraced alcoholic Marxist ex-lecturer, to pose as its principal.

Then, barely is there time to breathe a sigh of relief, before the place is besieged by a stream of other misfit and washout rejects who've discovered the unfortunately fully functional web site and got themselves admitted.

Unwilling to trash their last hope or, indeed, return the tuition fees, Bartleby decides to try and make a go of it.

Which, before long, attracts the unwelcome attention of Van Horne (Anthony Heald), snotty Dean of the neighbouring Harmon University, who assigns star student Hoyt Ambrose (Travis Van Winkle) to dig around for the dirt so they can shut the place down.

Did I mention Bartleby also has a crush on Harmon girl Monica (Blake Lively) who just happens to be dating Ambrose?

Despite the rampant implausibility, it all starts well enough, delivering a promising flurry of laughs. But from the moment A.D.D nerd Abernathy and the other bimbos, stoners, skateboarders and weirdos turn up at the door things swiftly run out of comic steam as the film both looks to mirror Rock n Roll High School (at one point, Long gets to sing a Ramones number) and pass itself off as an attack on a results orientated bureaucratic academic system that neglects real education and has no room for individual expression.

However, if the liberal design-your-own-curriculum approach fostered by Bartleby's South Harmon Institute of Technology is supposed to argue that its students aren't what the, oft alluded to, acronym spells out, then it's clearly self-deluded.

Rather, wish fulfilment fantasy courses in Slacking, Swimwear and Walking Around and Thinking About Stuff, merely serves to celebrate being good at mediocrity and underachievement.

What could have been a subversive satire, disappointingly winds up as yet another yawningly predictable underdog campus comedy about deflating and ridiculing pompous stuffed shirts and obnoxious bully boys, all topped off with the familiar scene where our hero gives the inspirational speech that makes everyone realise how blinkered they've been.

Still, at least neither Lindsay Lohan or Hilary Duff are in it.