At Middleton


A. Rogers


A.García & G. German




Anchor Bay Films



Running time:

99 min


Romantic comedy




DVD, Blu-ray


college campus, campus tour, professor, linguistics, campus radio, Class Differences, Helicopter parents
George is a cardiovascular surgeon, married, and father of Conrad. Edith is a successful retailer, also married, and mother of Audrey. As they had doubtless done years before when choosing a pre-school, and later for summer camp, both parents have helicoptered their pampered progeny to the bucolic campus of Middleton University for a campus tour. Both parents begin by embarrassing their kids in front of the rest of the group by asking annoying questions. But once Audrey and Conrad go off to explore Middleton's academic and extra-curricular offerings, uptight George and free-spirited Edith find themselves in each other's company. This sets the stage for yet another demonstration of Hollywood's hoary romantic maxim that opposites attract, as soon George and Edith are scooting across campus on stolen bikes and engaging in all sorts of sophomoric tomfoolery. They soon realize that being back on a college campus has allowed them to rediscover — albeit chastely — the most important part of a college education: freshman love.
Teaching Notes:
Socio-cultural portrayal of higher education
The extended opening sequence — as George drives his son towards the Middleton campus — encapsulates the popular myth of the American College rooted in the history of the development of the American land grant colleges. The campus is nestled in the mid-western countryside, with the granite college buildings in the distance resembling the mansions of an English country estate. Such opening tropes are found throughout Hollywood's cinematic portrayal of higher education, and keep audience members from making Ryle's famous "category mistake."

The film's portrayal of Conrad and Audrey provides yet another example of Hollywood's tendency to challenge intellectual elitism: Initially disinterested and directionless, Conrad is suddenly infused with passionate interest and curiosity after a pep talk by the DJ of Middleton's campus radio station. In contrast, the film ensures that the academically ambitious Audrey is punished for her artiface, in a scene where Dr. Roland Emerson -- a linguistics professor she has idolized since grade nine -- sneers that she's not nearly as smart as she thinks. But it doesn't really matter, he won't be around anyway — he's about to go on sabbatical to "study a Sioux tribe in North Dakota" — and won't be back for at least four years. Apparently, Middleton has the most generous sabbatical leave policy in all of academia (much to the dismay of North Dakota's Sioux). The character of Professor Roland Emerson (Tom Skerrit) would be regarded as a cliche even by the most unimaginative Central Casting manager. The professor's suitably scholastic surname evokes the myth of his more famous namesake (although he was a Harvard man), and his wizened, patrician countenance is a cross between Robert Frost and Carl Sandberg, perhaps returning from visiting Norman Thayer at Golden Pond.