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Old School
2003 - R - 92 Mins.
Director: Todd Phillips
Producer: Dan Goldberg, Joe Medjuck, Todd Phillips
Written By: Scot Armstrong, Todd Phillips, Court Crandall
Starring: Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, Craig Kilborn, Sean William Scott
Review by: John Ulmer
   
"Old School" is as funny as it is an homage to "Animal House." It is about three guys who try to relive their college glory days by starting a college fraternity off-campus, where anyone who likes to party can join. But to understand why this happens, you must understand the stick-skinny plot.

Luke Wilson plays Mitch, a lawyer who wanders home from a seminar one night to find his wife with two naked strangers. After his divorce, Mitch moves into a house near a college campus...only to find out that the house is to be repossessed by the college unless it is turned into a fraternity. So Mitch and his two friends, Beanie (Vince Vaughn) and Frank "The Tank" (Will Ferrell, the funniest guy in the film), start a fraternity, where their initiation is a method of trust. Those interested in joining the fraternity must drop a cement block (which is tied to a..."sensitive area") from a twenty foot drop, hoping the line doesn't pick up any slack. One of the most hilarious segments is this scene, which had me on the floor in laughter.

But trouble ensues when Frank's favorite fraternity member, "Blue," an eighty-nine-year-old-man, dies in the house, causing everyone in school to be booted from college and causing Mitch to lose his house. Unless they can prove to the college board that they have a meaningful existence as a fraternity.

"Old School" is at its best when it is cruel. "Old School" is the "Animal House" for today's generation. It comes as no surprise that its creators also made the rude, crude film "Road Trip," a film I have yet to see but hear isn't all that great. To tell you the truth, "Old School" isn't great, either, but it has a cruel streak running through it that is hilarious. It's like a person not afraid to speak their mind. It had me in tears, and at other times, glancing at my watch.

For example, take the scene where a fat college-goer drops a cement block from his sensitive area to join the college, only to have it fall through a pot-hole and suck him through. Or when the same guy has to do gymnastics to demonstrate athleticism to the college board. Or when Frank gets shot by a tranquilizer dart at a birthday party, and falls into the pool and wrecks the little boy's party. Or the running gag about a kitchen device Mitch bought Frank for his wedding (Frank tries to give it away numerous times, including to Mitch and the boy at the birthday party). Or when Frank dresses up as a mascot and tries to jump through a hoop of fire. Or the second-best scene in the movie, when Frank is at a party and is asked to drink from a beer bong. "No, I promised my wife I wouldn't drink. I have a big day tomorrow." He goes on to explain that his big day consists of going to home supply stores. "Maybe Bed Bath & Beyond. I don't know. We may not have enough time." After being pressured to drink, he finally gives in, and goes completely wild; he ends up stripping down and streaking across town, until his wife and her band of friends find him on the street at night, yelling and hollering, completely naked.

Will Ferrell is the screen-stealer here. I've liked him since I saw him on "Saturday Night Live" years ago. He recently left the show to start a film career. "Old School" marks his first film away from "SNL." It is also his funniest.

I like the way he talks. I remember a gag on "SNL" where Will played an NBC executive greenlighting a new television show called "...And a Pizza Place." He said, "I see tables. Some cheese. Some pizza. I don't know, I'm not a writer." He sounds exactly the same when he says, "Maybe Bed Bath & Beyond. I don't know. We might not have enough time."

This could be the sign of an actor with a promising career, or an actor who people will soon find repetitive in his roles and expressions. I sure hope not, because though he sounds exactly the same as other characters on occasion, it's just his personality, just like Bill Murray was such a smart-aleck and Chevy Chase smacked his face on the floor all the time. Although, those actors lost their careers pretty much recently, so I wish Ferrell the best of luck, because he is one uproarious guy.

In conclusion, "Old School" is a funny movie with some funny scenes, some of which are extremely hilarious. But the problem is the long stretches in between. It's got the formula. It's got the actors. It's got the cameos (Craig Kilborn, Sean William Scott), but it just fails to be consistently hilarious. I still had a fun time watching it, though, and I like these kinds of comedies once and a while. The kind that don't promise anything in particular, but give a whole lot back, whether in terms of laughter, or just ninety minutes of a big fat smile on your face. The script doesn't have to be too witty for me as long as I'm having fun, and I had a fun time watching this movie. I just hope that the sequel(s) manages to make the audience laugh on a consistent basis.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental.
  3.5 out of 5 stars

 
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