“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
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
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.”