Old School


Isn’t a big dose of Will Ferrell just what you need right now? (©2003 Dreamworks LLC)

Director Todd Phillips (Road Trip) makes movies dramatically retro: he’s the only guy still working in the T&A and beer-bong comedies that framed the 80s. His latest endeavor, Old School, is no exception—its plot is almost a carbon copy of Revenge of the Nerds or Animal House. The one nifty, albeit obvious, twist is that Old School makes its horny protagonists old—not really old, but old enough to tuck their polo shirts into their khakis.

Mitch (Luke Wilson) is a stand-up, amiable real-estate lawyer, the kind of guy that leaves boring meetings early to surprise his girlfriend (Julliete Lewis). But, as in all gross-out comedies with nice-guy protagonists, doing that sort of thing never works, and Mitch discovers his girlfriend has a penchant for blindfolded orgies. Crushed and alone, Mitch moves into a spacious house near the local college, hoping for some recovery time. But his two best friends, Bernard (Vince Vaughn) and Frank (Will Ferrell), stultified by the complicity of marriage, aren’t exactly going to let that happen. Starting a fraternity that has almost nothing to do with the college and everything to do with debauchery, Mitch, Frank, and Bernard become veritably unhinged.

Old School covers all old ground, but I still found it consistently funny and entertaining. Maybe it’s that it relies much more on sex-and-debauchery humor than the bathroom variety, or maybe it’s simply the enlightening presence of comic genius Will Ferrell. Whether he’s turning into his drunken alter-ego Frank the Tank, or becoming a depraved monster after accidentally shooting himself with a tranquilizer gun, Ferrell has the courage and shamelessness of all great physical comedians.

There are a lot of strong movies I could have seen and reviewed instead of Old School. There’s the uber-serious suicide drama Love Liza; the violent Brazillian epic City of God, or the annihilating darkness of Irreversible. I chose not to. Not because they’re not good movies or important ones (although I think the world is brutal enough without Irreversible), but because when we stand on the brink of immeasurable darkness, death, and injustice, cinema retrogrades to its vaudevillian essence—a respite from horror.