After viewing the trailers for Old School, I attended a screening
with hopes that the film might be a contemporary version of National
Lampoon's Animal House. While the comedy lacks the expanse of characters
and ideas of the 1978 smash, it is clearly the product of the same
vintage bad boy mindset. The movie may be choppy, with some good gags
spoiled by inept camera placement, but it delivers big laughs on a
consistent basis (provided, of course, that you are emotionally arrested
in a fashion similar to me).
Where most recent R-rated comedies depend on extreme gross-out gags,
Old School employs a slightly tamer form of rudeness. In fact, many
of the jokes work by showing relatively down-to-earth reactions to
outrageous actions. Case in point: The wife of one of the main bad
boys is driving down a deserted street at night with her girlfriends
when she spots a nude man running in front of them. As the car draws
closer, it becomes clear that the naked figure is her husband. The
encounter is particularly funny because the reactions of the wife
and her pals are more or less what one would expect from a group of
level-headed adults. While a ridiculous action coupled with a ridiculous
reaction may draw a laugh, this approach is funnier.
The story: When Mitch (Luke Wilson) comes home and finds his girlfriend
Heidi (Juliette Lewis) in a compromising position (better camerawork
would have helped the scene enormously), he moves out and rents a
house by a college campus. Following a hugely successful party, Mitch's
friends, smarmy businessman Beanie (Vince Vaughn) and just-married
Frank (Will Ferrell), nudge him into turning his home into a frat
house for adults, allowing them one last shot at the wild life.
Ah, but will mean old Dean Pritchard (Jeremy Piven, too young for
the role) be able to drive them off campus? And how will the women
in their lives (Ellen Pompeo, Leah Remini, Perrey Reeves and Elisha
Cuthbert) react to this nonsense?
The story may be strained, but the central concept three grown men
desperately trying to recapture their youth is rock solid.
As Beanie, husband, father and founder of Speaker City, Vince Vaughn
gets his juiciest role since Swingers. His attempts to stir up mayhem
while maintaining propriety pay off nicely, particularly in a scene
where he chides a friend for violating his "earmuff" policy (a code
word to prompt his kids to cover their ears so the grown-ups can swear).
Luke Wilson makes a fine straight-man as the "very successful, very
disease free" Mitch, while SNL veteran Will Ferrell is hilarious as
he reverts to his college persona as Frank "The Tank." The movie would
be worth seeing if only for his streaking scene and his unbelievably
ill-timed rendition "Dust in the Wind."
Old School is sloppy and mines some over-familiar turf, but the movie
is funny, very funny. And those who stay in their seats when the closing
credits start to roll will be rewarded.
Copyright © 2003 Edward Johnson-Ott