Slob comedy done right
The timing couldn’t be more perfect for Old School, a slovenly frat boy comedy that features SNL alumni Will Ferrell at his high octane, gonzo greatest. While it doesn’t score major points for originality or brainpower, Old School does have enough solid guffaws and consistent laughter to put it over the top. It also features someone getting shot in the jugular with a high-powered tranquilizer, a good thing for this sort of film.
Nice boy Mitch (Luke Wilson) breaks up with his girl (Juliette Lewis) and leases a new home near a college. His pals Beanie (Vince Vaughn) and Frank (Ferrell) give him a huge housewarming party that immediately establishes them as local legends of the social scene. When the wormy college Dean (Jeremy Piven) informs the boys that they must move out because new zoning has rendered their abode school property, they decide to form a fraternity for any man who wishes to join.
This sets the stage for plenty of good gags about hazing, gangbangs, beer bongs, sex with the boss’ daughter and streaking. This is a film that isn’t afraid to be as stupid as possible, and that can be a blessed thing if you put yourself in the right mood. Walk into this movie looking for a cerebral workout, and you might emerge feeling let down.
While it does lose some steam in its second half, Old School is the best comedy of its kind—the brainlessly broad type—since Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, which also featured Ferrell. As Frank “The Tank,” a well-meaning newlywed with a severe party past, he is insanity incarnate, constantly providing the feeling that anything can happen when he occupies the screen. Ferrell, who spends a good chunk of the film naked or in his underwear, recently departed from Saturday Night Live for movie fame. It’s tough not getting to see him on a weekly basis, but Old School provides a decent hit.
The movie will undoubtedly draw many comparisons to National Lampoon’s Animal House, and it does share a few themes with that bad-taste classic. Director Todd Phillips, who showed some promise with the moderately good Road Trip, seems ready to take over slob comedy duty from the likes of directors Harold Ramis (Caddyshack, Stripes) and Ivan Reitman (Animal House, Ghostbusters), two legendary sicko directors who have become a little too tame for their hardcore fans. Their days of good dick jokes seem long behind them.
Complimenting Ferrell’s antics quite nicely is Vaughn, who hasn’t been this funny since Swingers. As Beanie, owner of Speaker City and a man a little fed up with married life, he’s the consummate wisecracker. Beanie has a gutter mouth, but also a certain level of compassion, telling his young son to use his hands as “ear muffs” whenever he’s about to drop an F-Bomb. Wilson plays the straight man with well-modulated vulnerability, and a host of guest cameos, including Craig Kilborn, raise the fun level.
There have been a lot of highbrow entries for your award consideration at the multiplex lately, and that is certainly a good thing. But a nice, old fashioned, junky slob comedy is just the right thing to clear the palate before Hollywood goes into its late winter-early spring, suck-ass phase. After enduring the likes of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and Shanghai Knights, Old School qualifies as comic nirvana.
Mind you, I heard some people bemoaning how horrible the film was while exiting the theater, so be forewarned: Old School is an acquired taste, or, better put, a movie for those who sometimes proudly possess no taste. For Caddyshack and Animal House connoisseurs only.