Sunday, September 21, 2014

#1,497. Old School (2003)

Directed By: Todd Phillips

Starring: Luke Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Will Ferrell

Tag line: "All the fun of college, none of the education"

Trivia: Director Todd Phillips's dog has a cameo in the movie as Garry, the oral sex instructor's dog

The premise of Todd Phillips’ 2003 comedy Old School may be preposterous, but thanks to the combined efforts of its three leads, it still managed to make me laugh.

When he returns home early from a business trip, Mitch (Luke Wilson) receives the shock of a lifetime when he finds his live-in girlfriend Heidi (Juliette Lewis) preparing to have sex with a married couple! Looking to start over, Mitch rents a house near a local University, only to be informed by the school’s Dean (Jeremy Piven), a former acquaintance of his, that the entire area has been re-zoned. As a result, his house now lies in a part of town that falls under the University’s jurisdiction, meaning Mitch will have to vacate the premises by the end of the month.

Fortunately, his good friend Beanie (Vince Vaughn) has a plan that may help Mitch keep his home. Why not turn the building into a frat house?! With the help of their newly-married pal Frank (Will Ferrell), Mitch and Beanie start up their own “civilian fraternity”, which, according to the college’s by-laws, will allow them to continue to live there, though they'll have to share the house with about a dozen pledges, some of whom aren’t even students!

As Mitch, Beanie, and Frank enjoy all the privileges of college life, the Dean continues to look for a way to shut their new "fraternity" down.

The idea of three thirtysomething pals starting up their own college fraternity is ludicrous, and the movie doesn’t waste a single moment trying to justify it. We hear that Mitch and his pals have found a loophole in the college’s by-laws, though we're never told what that “loophole” might be. What saves the premise from sinking altogether are its three stars. Wilson, Vaughn, and Ferrell are funny guys, and their various antics lead to a few good laughs. After promising his new wife Marissa (Perrey Reeves) that he will stay away from alcohol, Frank, whose college nickname was “Frank the Tank”, gets drunk the very first night, takes off his clothes, and announces he’s going to streak through the park (where he runs into his wife and her friends).

That is a funny sequence, but my favorite scene has Mitch and the others jumping into a van and driving, at top speed, through town, kidnapping potential pledges and forcing them to take part in a very strange hazing ritual (which, without going into detail, involved a cinder block and a rope tied to their penises). The pledges themselves also generate some laughs; one would-be fraternity brother, lovingly nicknamed “Blue” (Patrick Crashaw), is 89 years old!

Not all of the jokes work. One scene in particular, which features Andy Dick as an oral sex specialist, was more creepy than funny. But thanks to its trio of stars, all playing characters similar to ones they’ve portrayed before, Old School manages to overcome both its weaker moments and its outlandish premise, and in the process becomes a pretty entertaining comedy.

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