Old School (2003)

What would happen if the guys from “Animal House” grew up into men with families and jobs but refused to grow up? Such is the rhetorical question posed to the audience in this charming frat house comedy intended for the young male audiences. Mitch Frank and Beanie are men who refuse to grow up and are terrified at the notion of moving forward in life and can’t deny the men they used to be despite the fact their wives try to change them into the men they used to be. Will Ferrell gives a hilarious yet subdued performance as Frank, once known as “Frank the Tank”; we never learn about their past exploits in college and whatnot, but somehow we get the sense of their past persona’s and it all comes out in the open as they open up a fake fraternity so Mitch can stay in his home due to new college campus laws.

Mitch’s friends hold on to their past by living through him throwing parties, and staging KY jelly matches in the basement in which they lose a pledge member. Mitch (Luke Wilson: Alex & Emma, Home Fries) is the very stiff character who just became single after accidentally stumbling on his wife Heidi (Juliette Lewis: Natural Born Killers, From Dusk till dawn) who was in the middle of an orgy, Beanie (Vince Vaughn: Swingers, Made) is a man who despises his life, but cannot escape it nonetheless. At the opener of the film he, the best man at Frank’s wedding makes rapid-fire warnings about marrying his wife as she walks down the aisle; “Being with one vagina for the rest of you life man? Real smart” he remarks with desperation as she approaches the altar.

Such is Vaughn’s gift for rapid-fire monologues that make him one of the more memorable aspects of the film. And then there’s Will Ferrell’s (Saturday Night Live, Elf, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) character Frank who just married yet discovers he is not quite ready to let go of his past life. Ferrell is more subdued in the film but is continuously funny with his usual off-beat humble but wild persona, and his willingness to get naked at the drop of the hat makes way for one of the funnier scenes in the film. “Old School” is nothing new, but it’s not terrible; there are actually funny moments during the film that sparked a laughter from me and the three leads to the film handle it all very well. Wilson is good, Vaughn is hilarious with much witty comebacks to Ferrell’s sheer idiocy and charm. Ellen Pompeo (Moonlight Mile, Catch me if you Can) has an utterly adorable role as love interest Nicole who serves as sort of the life Mitch desires but can’t quite get.

Nonetheless, where the film lacks in certain areas it makes up for in witty dialogue that is almost rapid-fire and laugh inducing. I was entertained the entire way through and couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. It’s about time Hollywood comes to the realization that “Animal house” was one of a kind, there’s never going to be another Animal House, there will be nothing to measure up to it, so for heaven’s sake stop throwing these poor imitations at the American audiences, please. Are all colleges like this? Is there beer chugging guys, girls willing to get naked at the drop of a hat? Students partying almost non-stop never actually going to class? I find it hard to believe and wish that the plot involving a college with this much clichés might go beyond it all sooner or later. The film as charming and funny as it is fails to have an original bone in its body; most of the plot elements are completely contrived and taken from many other films before it.

There are beer chugs, naked chicks, a jelly fight with women ala “Stripes”, an initiation scene ala “Revenge of the Nerds”, a streaking scene ala “Van Wilder”, a competition scene ala “Billy Madison”, and all of it is so blatantly contrived it ends up reminding you of the earlier incarnation rather than thinking about that exact scene. There are a lot of characters in the film and with them there are sub-plots galore and a lot of the sub-plots tend to feel unresolved and very incomplete. In fact, goddess Elisha Cuthbert has a small role as a the mind-numbingly hot under-aged vixen who has a mistaken fling with the character Mitch who has a horrible connection with a fellow employee, and as funny as a situation that would or could have been, it’s never touched upon, nor is it resolved, Late night talk show host Graig Kilborn plays the obstacle to the character Mitch’s affection towards Nicole as an arrogant adulterer boyfriend but he’s never shown beyond three scenes, his character is very under-developed, and his storyline where she discovers he cheated is so short and simply unsatisfying and felt very sloppily done.

Also there are many scenes in the film that, if they had been further developed might have been rather interesting including more focus on the fraternity seeing as how the film revolves around a fraternity, more scenes involving the competition which seemed rushed, and I would have preferred to see more of the romance plot between the character Nicole and the character Mitch. The utterly adorable Ellen Pompeo has really nothing to do in the film except smile with all her charm at Wilson’s character and react to the insanity ensuing; She was excellent in “Moonlight Mile” and would have preferred to see more of her. It’s all so under-developed and unresolved it inevitably left the film with a sense of un-satisfaction regarding the quality it might have been capable of conveying yet never delivers. Though flawed, cliché, contrived, and poorly developed, this is also charming, funny, and pulls in some good performances from Vaughn, Wilson, and Ferrell.