Plot: Harold (Harold Lloyd) arrives at college with one goal, to become the most popular student on campus, no matter what that takes. He finds some success with some of his plans, like providing free ice cream, but he also loses the favor of some students, so he needs a new approach. Then he sees big man on campus Chet (Brooks Benedict) and realizes what he needs to do, since Chet is a football star and the school’s most popular student. So Harold decides to become a football player, though of course, that is easier said than done. While he doesn’t have the natural athleticism of the rest of the team, he does land a spot, though the coach thinks he’s best suited to fetch water. Can Harold prove he belongs on the college’s team and if so, can he finally become one of the popular fellows like he has dreamed about?
Entertainment Value: This was a big box office hit for Harold Lloyd and while I wouldn’t rank it next to Safety Last, The Freshman is a fun movie that has some terrific moments and a lot of laughs. The narrative here is simple, but Lloyd uses a lot more character development than usual in The Freshman, even giving the supporting players many chances to shine. I still think Lloyd has the funniest sequences, but it is interesting to see a slight difference in his approach. I also think the pace is a little slower and that is part of the character focus, since that time cuts into the jokes somewhat. So that is a balance of sorts, but while it might not be as frantic or packed with laughs, The Freshman isn’t drawn out in the least. Lloyd’s usual slapstick routine is on showcase and I think the movie is more loaded toward the back end, as the early scenes are more on the deliberate side. I also think the football scenes are of interest, seeing such an early take on the cinematic side of the sport, especially through the lens of Lloyd’s special brand of slapstick magic. In the end, The Freshman is a fun ride and while not Lloyd’s best work, it is still highly recommended.
This movie is another turn for Harold Lloyd in his iconic character, but he does make slight adjustments this time around. The character is softer than normal, which prompted Lloyd to scale back on some of the emotion, though scenes he removed would later be restored. He might still come out on top, but Lloyd seems less like the lovable underdog and more like a hapless loser at times. That might seem like a not so big jump, but it is very evident in some scenes that the character feels different, even if he is still a lot of fun to watch. He also gives his costars more time than usual, including some big laughs, which was a slight surprise. The more character driven approach does slow the pace, as I mentioned before, but the movie still works well and I think it helps set The Freshman apart from Lloyd’s usual style, at least a little. But while his costars get some good scenes, it is of course Lloyd himself who shines the brightest and delivers the most memorable moments. The cast also includes Jobyna Ralston, Brooks Benedict, Grady Sutton, and Hazel Keener.