Reviewed by: Megan Basham
Starring: Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, Juliette Lewis, Ellen Pompeo | Directed by: Todd Phillips | Produced by: Dan Goldberg, Joe Medjuck, Todd Phillips | Written by: Scot Armstrong, Todd Phillips, Court Crandall | Distributor: Dreamworks
What to say about “Old School”, a film where three self-centered men (for lack of a better term) in their 30s try to relive their college glory days by starting a free-for-all fraternity near their old campus?
While not one of these three main characters could actually be considered sympathetic, Director Todd Phillips apparently wants the audience to break the guys down this way: Mitch (Luke Wilson) is the loyal husband who comes home from work to find his handcuffed wife about to engage in a threesome with blindfolded strangers. Devastated and confused, he turns to his two best friends, Beanie and Frank, for comfort and counsel.
Beanie (Vince Vaughn) is a family man who despises his family, and so to help Mitch, comes up with a plan that will mend not only his friend’s heart, but his own sagging sense of masculinity as well. Desperate to create a boy’s club where he can escape the nuisance of said family, Beanie masterminds the “fraternity house salvation plan.” Friend number two, Frank the Tank (Will Ferrell), once a beer-guzzling campus idol who now finds himself the hen-pecked fianc of a Martha Stewart-esqe bride-to-be, is only too desperate to be included in the fun.
Based on this skeletal description, any first-year screenwriting student could guess where the plot goes from here. From K-Y jelly wrestling matches to women practicing oral sex on vegetables, “Old School” is about as immoral a muck-heap of squalor as any corrupt (albeit simple) human mind could invent.
The sanctity of marriage is not just undermined in this film, it is spitefully trampled on. “Old School”’s implication is that all men in Beanie’s situation feel suffocated, care little for their families, and are just waiting for a chance to throw off their adult responsibilities. And even Mitch, the supposed good guy, shows virtually no remorse for committing statutory rape with a teenage girl. In fact, a major running gag throughout the movie is whether her father, Mitch’s boss, will find out.
Beyond all that, the film, with the exception of Will Ferrell, isn’t even all that funny. Chock full of clichs and cheap sight gags, it’s time somebody let Hollywood know that the “evil-dean-trying-to-shut-the-party-down” bit worked once—in “Animal House”—and it need never be revisited again. In the spirit of honesty, it must be admitted again that Ferrell, as a comic talent, can’t help but shine in even the most sophomoric material. But my advice to him (and to all the somewhat gifted actors in this film): Next time, have a little respect for yourselves and choose a project worthy of your talents rather than go for the big, easy paycheck. You’ll respect yourselves more in morning.Year of Release—2003