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Old School (R)
Official Site
Director: Todd Phillips
Producers: Daniel Goldberg, Joe Medjuck, Todd Phillips
Written by: Court Crandall, Todd Phillips, Scot Armstrong
Cast: Luke Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Will Ferrell, Ellen Pompeo, Juliette Lewis, Jeremy Piven

Rating: out of 5

“We’re starting a fraternity.” With those immortal words uttered by Vince Vaughn a tremendous can of worms is opened that seems to only gain momentum as Old School moves along. Sight gags and college humor will perhaps never be the same.

In Old School, director Todd Phillips, who is also given writing credit, goes back to the winning formula of Road Trip. The key element of that formula is college. And while college might be an easy subject to write a comedy around, I can’t fault Phillips for taking the easy approach because he once again seems to excel. (When you find your subject, stick to it. Phillips also co-directed a fine 1998 documentary—Frat House.)

Mitch Martin (Wilson) is a bored real estate attorney who comes home early one night to discover that his girlfriend (Lewis) has been partaking in some serious swinger action. As his world seems to crumble around him, his two best friends, Frank (Ferrell) and Beanie (Vaughn), try to convince him that his life is just starting and that this is the opportunity most 30-year-olds crave. When Mitch purchases a house in a college neighborhood, his buddies throw him a glorious party and invite the whole town. Very quickly the reputation of Mitch’s place as Party Capital starts to spread. The evil Dean of the school (Piven) finds a zoning loophole to evict Mitch because the property must only be used for student housing. When Beanie decides that this is the perfect opportunity to create a fraternity Lambda Epsilon Omega is born. The quest for pledges and parties leads to a final showdown with the Dean, who is determined to find a way to revoke their charter.

The plot isn’t anything that hasn’t been done before. The story is essentially a vehicle for the gags and comical scenes, which works. Old School doesn’t try to be something it isn’t by beefing up its plot with unnecessary or uncharacteristic moments.

One of the surprising things about the film is how closely (and I mean closely) it resembles its forefather, Animal House. “A raucous, crazy fraternity for all the “B” list guys, with a mean-spirited Dean determined to put an end to their nonsense, must prove that they belong.” Which movie synopsis is it? While Old School is terribly predictable at times it more than makes up for it with the outrageousness of some of its stunts. The initiations alone are probably worth the price of admission (particularly one ceremony involving cinder blocks and a whole lot of faith). Even if it is a little Animal House 2 it’s okay because the spirit of Animal House is present, and after all a good story is a good story. Also, Phillips hasn’t forgotten the people aspect. It may be hard to find, but if you look for it there are personal stories under the outrageousness. How these characters deal with real problems like divorce or mid-life crises in the midst of all the hilarity is done well (and of course, always with a funny edge).

The cast of this movie excels. Luke Wilson is great as the poor, straight-laced sap at the center of the chaos. Vince Vaughn is hilarious as the good-intentioned friend living vicariously through his buddy, and Will Farrell is Will Farrell. If you don’t know what you’re going to get from him, you must not have caught “Saturday Night Live” in the past few years. Watching him transform from the quiet married guy to the crazy party animal in one night is by far one of the best parts in the movie. Along with the hilarity brought forth from its lead actors, we also get to enjoy notable cameos from Andy Dick, Seann William Scott, and James Carville. Craig Kilborn also does a good job in a minor role as the jerk boyfriend.

Bottom line: Old School is exactly what you expect. The trailers haven’t lied. It’s a wheels-off comedy designed to make you laugh out loud every two minutes and I must say I didn’t find any design flaws. Old School is the funniest new movie I have seen in years and all I can say is, “Bring on the sequel.”

—Corey Herrick


hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

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