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Movie Reviews

The Chemerinsky Code

American University Law Revue 2005

Since 1992, intrepid students at American University’s Washington College of Law have banded together to produce the Law Revue, which uses singing, dancing, parodies, and any other means necessary to make the travails and triumphs of studying the law funny for both their fellow students and their legally ignorant friends and family. I cannot speak for most of these years, but for the last three years they have been exceptionally successful at this task. (Last year I documented this, albeit probably without the proper footnoting.)

Probably not coincidentally, the Law Revue has had Robert Kahn at its disposal for the last three years, and as I know from having hung out with him regularly for the last seventeen years, he knows how to put on an entertainment. This year, the Law Revue elevated the Notorious R.O.B. to Head Writer status, and he rewarded their good judgment by producing “The Chemerinsky Code,” an opus that provides equal measures of hilarity for law students and for people such as myself who have been going to movies with Robert for a long, long time.

To say that “The Chemerinsky Code” has a plot is probably an overstatement, but the frame on which the various vignettes play out concerns a Code developed by Erwin Chemerinsky that explains all law, thus endowing whoever wields it with the ultimate legal power in the universe. Clearly, this needs to be kept out of the hands of evil-doers such as the Czarina (Jen Dorn) and her two lieutenants Darth Scalia (Stephanie Blazewicz) and Darth Posner (Heidi Hansen).

The task of doing so falls to two naifs: black-trenchcoated Neal Anderson (Brandon Gantus), armed with the highest LSAT score known to man, and Becky (Brett Landis), a civilian with a preternatural legal gift herself. Of course, they must contend with their fellow students, their unconcerned administration, and their precarious existential situation as people who are paying an immense amount of money to attend a public-interest law school so that they can get jobs that pay primarily in thievable office supplies. If that.

“The Chemerinsky Code” excelled most, though, when it eschewed plot for funner stuff, like a full-cast parody of “West Side Story”’s “America” (“American,” natch) featuring punning patter-lyrics from music director Eric Huang and Dorn and the always-mesmerizing rolling-backpack dance break, this year stylishly choreographed by Carlos Guerrero. The big set pieces, in fact, all sparkled, with particularly lively and enthusiastic dancing from Marian Antony, no doubt in part due to her role as coffee-obsessed Chloe.

Gunnar Rosenquist contributed two unforgettable characters: Professor Overkill, berating legal students “Full Metal Jacket”-style about proper frisking techniques, and America’s most famous lawyer, ex-President Bill Clinton, who had a student named “Monica Blewinsky” and who got to deliver Bill Pullman’s climactic monologue from “Independence Day,” suitably modified (“We are fighting for our right to practice law. Well, you are. I have to wait a couple more years to practice law again”). Nejib Jibril, as Darth-in-Training Thomas, delivered a hilarious plaintive monologue about the inevitable killing of the junior minority character before the good guys showed up to kill him.

Multiple-personality disorder was never as entertaining as it was in Andy Sonin’s Tyler Durden evocation as the leader of Study Group (“The first rule of Study Group is: You do not talk about Study Group”). Dorn as the Czarina showed that no one excels her at bonechilling cackling, and hard-boiled Magnum I.P. (Jared Kosoglad) gave her a worthy world-weary amoral counterpart. Jenn Wurzbacher went above and beyond the call of comedic duty when, in a nod to “Avenue Q,” she adeptly employed a “Sesame”-style puppet to portray the plaintively dissatisfied Dean Happy. And even that seemingly exhaustive listing doesn’t capture all the sharp parodies (“Read My Resume,” from “Take My Breath Away”), sparkling comic performances (Maryann Wou’s withering London Hilton, Raymond Janairo’s blustering legal frat boy Herbert Walker), or gutbusting movie references (pretty much all the scenes involving the two Darths, of course).

I understand that there are other Law Revues out there (the pun seems to come naturally when your school publishes law reviews), but I find it hard to imagine that they can match the entertainment provided by AU’s Law Revue over the three years I’ve been watching it. Robert’s magnificent script (not to mention his astonishing thespianic transformation into a braying chauvinist jackass in the role of Carl the Clitigator) made a fine capper to my experience of a show that I will probably never see again, due to the fact that it would be vaguely weird to attend a show like this with no relation to anyone in it. Still, I’ll miss it.


All this tasty writing ©2002-11 by Andrew Lindemann Malone. All rights reserved.