Old School

Old School
Director: Todd Phillips
Screenplay: Todd Phillips & Scot Armstrong (story by Court Crandall and Todd Phillips & Scot Armstrong)
Stars: Luke Wilson (Mitch Martin), Will Ferrell (Frank), Vince Vaughn (Beanie), Ellen Pompeo (Nicole), Jeremy Piven (Gordon Pritchard), Craig Kilborn (Mark), Juliette Lewis (Heidi), Leah Remini (Lara), Matthew Carey (Hatch), Rick Gonzalez (Spanish)
MPAA Rating: R
Year of Release: 2003
Country: U.S.
Old School Blu-Ray
Old SchoolIn Old School, Luke Wilson, Vince Vaughn, and Will Ferrell play guys in their early 30s who are going through premature mid-life crises (remember when men had to wait until they were at least 45 to start complaining about the burdensome weight of a wife and kids and their lost youth?). So, to compensate for their droll lives, they make the unlikely venture of founding a new fraternity at the fictional Harrison University, despite the fact that none of them are students. Their central concept is to pare down the fraternity to its barest essential--an excuse to wallow in juvenile behavior--by getting rid of all the extraneous nonsense like community service and academics. It’s all about getting in touch with your inner delinquent.

The brains behind the concept is Vaughn’s Beanie, a not-so-happily married father of two who owns a successful electronics store that he built from the ground up with only a bare minimum of literacy. It is Beanie’s job to say and do what all the other men want to say and do, but for various reasons can’t (he’s the vivacious id battling their floundering superegos). In Mitch Martin’s (Wilson) case, it is because he is a generally decent, relatively uptight lawyer who recently discovered that his fiancée (Juliette Lewis) likes to throw blindfolded orgies with strangers while he is away on business trips. In Frank’s (Will Ferrell) case, it is because he is recently married to a very upstanding young woman who joined him in matrimony only because she thought his beer-guzzling days as “Frank the Tank” were over. She was wrong.

Old School doesn’t so much tell a story as it exploits an amusing premise. There’s really nowhere to go with it other than to stage a series of gags and silly party situations and watch how these supposedly grown men quickly resort to the pathologies that afflict every horny 18-year-old in the country. Thus, we get a keg party with an appearance by Snoop Dogg, accidental sex with a significantly underage high school student, and a bout of nude wrestling in K-Y Jelly. Part of the humor is the motley assortment of men that makes up the fraternity, most of whom are not in college (one of them, in fact, is pushing 90 years of age). The message seems to be that life as an adult is a bore, and happiness is getting back to your college roots when anarchy rules and responsibilities were things other people had to deal with.

Yet, like so many recent college party movies (for example, 2002’s National Lampoon’s Van Wilder) and unlike its obvious inspiration, the incomparable National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978), Old School is ultimately a conservative story, one in which hedonistic partying ultimately gives way to a dutiful return to the responsibilities of adult life (only Frank’s life changes significantly as a result). In other words, diving headfirst into the world of college partying after a decade-long absence is not an embrace of a new way of life, but rather a temporary respite before reengaging with the real world.

Director and co-writer Todd Phillips, who directed the raunchy college comedy Road Trip (2000), also helmed the controversial and little-seen 1998 documentary Frat House, the antics of which probably inspired some of the moments in Old School. He has some amusing ideas, but his staging and sense of timing are a bit creaky. For every moment of hilarity (including Ferrell going on a one-man nude streak across town and Andy Dick’s cameo as a bizarre fellatio coach for a bunch of stuffy bourgeois wives), there are scenes that fall utterly flat.

The worst of these involve Jeremy Piven (Entourage) as Gordon Pritchard, the university’s dean. He wants to nail the new fraternity not just because they represent chaos in his orderly academic world, but because he knew the three founders when he was in college and, suffice it to say, they didn’t get along. Piven plays the role in square plastic glasses, slicked hair, and bad ties, and he does his best to act like something very large has been rammed up his rectum. Yet, he never really gets you to despise him in that Dean Wormer kind of way because he’s too pathetic to be vile. College comedies need a worthy adversary, and Phillips and his cowriter Scot Armstrong (who also cowrote Road Trip) were so busy making Pritchard despicable that they forgot to make him a challenge. Thus, the movie is at its worst during the lengthy sequence in which he forces the fraternity to go through a series of silly (and generally unfunny) tests (academic, athletic, etc.) to make them prove their worthiness, when all we really want is to see them unleash a little anarchy.

Old School “Unrated and Out of Control” Blu-Ray

Aspect Ratio2.35:1
  • English Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 Surround
  • French Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 Surround
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • SubtitlesEnglish, Spanish, Portuguese, French,
  • Audio commentary by director Todd Phillips and stars Vince Vaughn, Luke Wilson, and Will Ferrell
  • Deleted scenes
  • Old School Orientation” featurette
  • “Inside the Actors Studio Spoof” featurette
  • Outtakes and bloopers
  • Theatrical trailer
  • TV spots
  • DistributorSony Pictures Home Entertainment
    Release DateDecember 16, 2008

    Fans of Old School should enjoy this Blu-Ray’s 1080p high-definition image, which is sharp, colorful, and detailed (a little too detailed, you might think, when Will Ferrell goes on his one-man streak). The Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 surround soundtrack is very good for the material, keeping the dialogue crisp and clear in the front soundstage and utilizing the surround channels to enhance party scenes and give the film’s various songs a boost.
    The supplements on this Blu-Ray disc are all the same ones that were previously available on the “Unrated and Out of Control” DVD. We have an audio commentary by director Todd Phillips and stars Vince Vaughn, Luke Wilson, and Will Ferrell that is generally worthless as far as information goes, but has its moments of amusements as they cut up and make jokes about, well, everything. Eight deleted scenes, which run about 13 minutes total, are interesting to watch, although it’s pretty obvious why most of them were cut since they aren’t terribly funny. “Old School Orientation” (13 min.) is a typical electronic press kit featurette with interviews with cast and crew, while “Inside the Actors Studio Spoof” has Ferrell doing his full James Lipton impression while interviewing Phillips, Vaughn, Wilson, and, of course, himself. Finally, there are five minutes of outtakes and bloopers, four TV spots, and the original theatrical trailer (the trailer is the only supplement presented in HD).

    Copyright ©2008 James Kendrick

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    All images copyright © DreamWorks Home Entertainment

    Overall Rating: (2.5)

    James Kendrick

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