Old School (2003)
There’s something to be said for stupid comedies. Not necessarily the ones that are centered on large men getting hit in the head or crotch. Or films that climax with pie fights. Or any film where a wild animal plays some kind of pro sport. Or any film where Rob Schneider transforms into something and learns that life is indeed tough from a different perspective. As you can see, the stupid comedy has a very dubious history but when it succeeds at creating those hearty belly laughs, the kind where your face is sore afterwards from laughing so hard, few movies are as entertaining. Billy Madison is every bit as perfect in its humor as the more critically lauded comedies Rushmore and Raising Arizona. So then, is the crass college comedy Old School funny, stupid or both? It’s safe to say its makers did their homework and admirable achieve an unrepentant uproarious stupid comedy.
Mitch (Luke Wilson) is a real estate numbers cruncher who catches an early flight home from a business retreat only to discover his girlfriend (Juliet Lewis) blindfolded and ready to engage in an orgy. Mitch moves into a house on a local campus with the help of his two friends, smooth talker Beanie (Vince Vaughn) and man-child Frank (Will Ferrell). The trio of thirty somethings comes up with the idea to start their own fraternity and relive their youth. Their rebellion from adulthood leads to wild parties, underage girls, KY Jelly wrestling, drunken streaking, birthday party tranquilizers, eulogies featuring White Snake songs and, of course, taking it to the man that just wont let these kids have their fun.
Wilson is relegated to the role of the straight man, which means he pretty much gets to make faces at the antics of Ferrell and Vaughn. Wilson is the nice guy of the film, which in comedy terms means hes the individual tortured by others. And in other terms, means hes normally quite bland. Consider both checked with Wilson in Old School. Wilson is a very capable actor but he’s more or less backdrop.
Ferrell is like instant comedy, just add water and he can make anything funnier. Much has been made of Kathy Bates strutting around in her 54-year-old birthday suit (which may have led to a Best Unsupported Actress nomination) but Ferrell equally jogs around jiggling his goods with glee. Ferrell is hysterical as the films biggest party animal. He takes everything to another level of comedy. Stick around during the end credits just to see him kick some woman’s shopping cart. I’m telling you this simple action is one of the funniest things in the movie.
Vaughn has made a career of playing fast-talking louts that would normally incite people with his caustic remarks if he weren’t so damn charming. What happened to ole Vince and his oodles of sex appeal? Circa 1998 or so he was going to be Hollywoods next leading man, especially after massive exposure from Spielberg’s Lost World. Yes, starring in the very ill conceived remake of Psycho (now with masturbation at no extra charge!) was a bad career move but it shouldn’t have been a killer. I mean, Anne Heche went on to other films after it and this was before she was communicating with aliens with her made up language. Hell, I’m just kind of glad to see Vaughn in films again. His running gag with a bread maker is great.
The plot of Old School is really nothing more than a paper-thin device for the jokes to spring forth from. There are only stock characters in these kinds of films. Theres the nice girl (Ellen Pompeo) that will eventually get together with our protagonist in the end. There’s her smug boyfriend played by the smug Craig Kilborn. Jeremy Piven is a stuffy dean trying to shut the boys down to settle old grudges with them.
The women of Old School are really left with nothing to do. Either they are there to have sex with the men or, when older, marry and control them. Lewis is the opposite of the good girl as the oversexed former flame of Wilson. Leah Remini has a very brief role as Vaughns wife who knows when to lead him by a chain. 24‘s Elisha Cuthbert is a naughty schoolgirl that could get Wilson in trouble after one unexpected night. The ladies of this world are really tools for the guys, but what kind of feminist analysis is needed for a film that features Snoop Dog and not one, but two correspondents from The Daily Show?
Old School is from the director and co-writer of Road Trip, a crude yet very entertaining and lively comedy. Old School is kind of a big brother companion to Road Trip, and while not rising to the level of Animal House (as every college comedy wishes to be now) the film is indeed a pristine example of a gloriously stupid comedy aided by a very game cast. See it and be prepared to laugh a few pounds off.
Nate’s Grade: B
Posted on February 22, 2003, in 2003 Movies and tagged college, comedy, jeremy piven, juliet lewis, luke wilson, sean william scott, todd phillips, vince vaughn, will ferrell. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.