Reel To Real: Tara Reid Puts On Her Anthropologist Glasses

Her role in 'Alone in the Dark' seems a bit of a stretch.

The Reel Story: In the new thriller "Alone in the Dark," we find Hollywood party girl Tara Reid breaking character and eschewing the "American Pie" films and Maxim covers of her past to play anthropologist. The Atari-game-turned-popcorn-event also stars Christian Slater as Edward Carnby, a paranormal investigator who happens to be Reid's ex.

There is a mad scientist (Mathew Walker), of course, and Edward is convinced the scientist, Professor Hudgens, did something evil to the children at the orphanage where he grew up. Conveniently, the Hudgens has left the orphanage behind in favor of his new stomping grounds, an abandoned gold mine that houses a portal to the underworld that's teeming with inter-dimensional baddies.

Edward enlists Reid's character, Aline Cedrac, to decipher some ancient artifacts that are related to an extinct Native American tribe, a task Reid tackles with sass and smarts (see, she's wearing glasses).

While we wouldn't dream of questioning Miss Reid's intellect, we can't help but wonder, does she have what it takes to be an anthropologist?

The Real Story: In a word, no.

The 29-year-old Wyckoff, New Jersey, native has been acting since the age of 6, when she started appearing in commercials. She attended the Professional Children's School in New York, which caters to young people working in the fields of performing and visual arts, competitive sports and modeling. In other words, it's a high school for working celebrities that allows them a flexible schedule to focus on acting, modeling or sports. Other famous grads include Jerry O'Connell, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Holly Marie Combs, Julia Stiles, Uma Thurman and Scarlett Johansson. A talented group, to be sure, but qualified to study ancient cultures?

To be an anthropologist, one must possess, at the very least, an undergraduate degree in anthropology from an accredited university or college. Anthropology, the study of human beings, is divided into two subdisciplines: cultural and physical.

Reid's Aline, with her extensive knowledge of artifacts and ancient cultures, would have probably focused on cultural anthropology and archeology, possibly with another undergraduate degree in a foreign language. However, most anthropologists doing this kind of fieldwork have graduate degrees, since a bachelor's degree will normally only gain you entry-level work — research assistant, museum technician and the like.

Anthropology isn't just a job, it's a scholarly pursuit. Anthropologists have helped identify bodies in mass graves, saved artifacts from looting in Africa and Iraq, studied and cataloged shrines to 9-11 in New York, and much more.

Tara Reid? Well, her pursuits are bit more leisurely (and usually cataloged in your favorite gossip rags).

Check out everything we've got on "Alone in the Dark."

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