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Laramie Movie Scope:
Old School

Funny, but Animal House it ain't

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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May 28, 2003 -- “Old School” is the latest in a long series of films trying to recapture the success of “Animal House,” the reigning king of gross college comedy. It is funny, but it falls far short of its goal. It even falls short of “Road Trip,” a movie made by most of the same people behind “Old School.”

“Old School” is a story about three friends in their 30s trying to recapture the fun they had in college. Through a series of misadventures, the group ends up setting up an off-campus fraternity inhabited mainly by non-students. As in “Animal House,” there is an ongoing war between the fraternity and the dean of the college, Gordon Pritchard (played by Jeremy Piven of “Black Hawk Down”). The three old friends, Mitch Martin (Luke Wilson of “Legally Blonde”), Frank “The Tank” (Will Ferrell of “Zoolander”) and Beanie (Vince Vaughn of “The Cell”), have a great time rediscovering the joys of binge drinking and orgies.

The three recruit an odd assortment of misfits as fraternity members, including an old geezer named Blue (Patrick Cranshaw of "Best in Show"). Blue, who is supposed to be about 90 years old in the film, is one of the funnier characters in the movie, and that says a lot about this movie. One of the funnier bits in the movie has Frank behaving very strangely when he is shot with a tranquilizer dart. Writer-director Todd Phillips uses slow motion photography and a slowed down soundtrack to good effect in the slapstick comedy scene. The movie does provide some hearty laughs, but it is very uneven, and plot is full of holes. The various romantic subplots are a complete bust. The plot seems more like a series of loosely-related comedy skits than a cohesive story. The characters are shallow and uninteresting. The plot is not character-driven. It is more like the plot is in the saddle and it commands the characters to go anywhere it wants to and the characters have nothing to say about it. They just dumbly move ahead without any thought. There seems to be little motivation for Mitch Martin, in particular, to behave the way he does in the film. His behavior, and that of some of the other characters is very inconsistent.

The casting is quite a mixed bag with dramatic actors thrown in with comic actors and non-actors. Among the odder casting choices, Vince Vaughn, Ellen Pompeo (“Moonlight Mile”), singer Snoop Dogg, politician James Carville, talk show host Craig Kilborn and Juliette Lewis of “The Way of the Gun.” There is a lack of chemistry in this odd mix of actors. The creative team behind this movie has many of the same people, including two of the writers (Todd Phillips and Scot Armstrong), who made “Road Trip,” another college comedy. This film is not as good as “Road Trip” was. I'm tempted to say the difference was that “Road Trip” had Tom Green, but that would be cruel. I think the difference is that “Road Trip” had better character development, a better plot and better acting. “Animal House,” had stronger characters across the board, and it benefited greatly from the legendary comic genius of John Belushi (“guess what I am now”). Alas, he is long gone, and “Old School” reminds us that Will Ferrell, who gives it the old college try, is just a pale imitation of Belushi. This film rates a C.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2003 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)