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Jackson’s vanity project only rates fair

“Vanity – my favorite sin.”

Al Pacino said it in The Devil’s Advocate, and Ice-T, er, Samuel L. Jackson epitomizes the phrase in his latest project.

Make no mistake about Formula 51: this is not a film that the Oscar-nominated Jackson was contractually bound to do. This movie did not self-combust halfway through shooting, turn out stupid and is now being released with fingers crossed.

Rather, Jackson is listed as executive producer on this tripe. And you can bet he pulled his weight around to throw in every one of his passions, hobbies and overall silliness into the plot. However, his character does have a great name.

The audience first meets Elmo McElroy – donning an Afro – on his college graduation day, circa 1971. He is busted for smoking dope, and that apparently is the one turning point in his life to which he blames his current lousy lot – a master chemist for a seedy drug lord named The Lizard (Meat Loaf).

Then Elmo takes his “formula” for a super drug across the pond to Liverpool, England, where he plans to sell it for $20 million. Along the way, he meets a two-bit con named Felix (Robert Carlyle), a gun-seller and drug-mover called Iki (Rhys Ifans) and Dakota (Emily Mortimer), Lizard’s hired gun who’s after Elmo.

This is a movie that Jackson can walk right through, exuding little to no effort and enjoying the ride the whole way. An actor of his caliber doesn’t need to try to act like a bad ass – Jackson is The Bad Ass. And no bones are made about it here. With the one-liners that roll off his tongue so effortlessly in the finished product, it would be interesting to see the takes that didn’t make the cut.

Jackson has elevated himself to a status only enjoyed by the likes of Frank Sinatra. Those who call the shots, order the drinks and allows everyone in on the fun.

And that’s really what this film boils down to. It’s a laugh riot all the way to the end, where he disrobes his curious kilt and struts completely naked off a golf course. Golf, by the way, figures prominently into the plot. Jackson totes a golf bag everywhere he goes, and it’s no doubt just an excuse for the actor to live his fantasy of using a 1-wood as a weapon to open up the proverbial whooping can.

Self-indulgence isn’t always a bad thing. And in Jackson’s case, it’s quite refreshing to see him in a blow-’em-up, mindless flick doing what he does best – strutting his stuff and talking smack.

To see Jackson in a vain project such as Formula 51 could certainly be a more entertaining evening than watching Kelsey Grammer do Shakespeare. But perhaps that’s because Frasier Crane could never be this cool.

Contact Will Albrittonat