Time: 90 mins.
Genre: Campus Comedy
Like most college campus films, OLD SCHOOL generously mixes bad taste, physical pranks and a boat load of testosterone in its' comedy cocktail. More Boone's Farm than Bordeaux, this straight shot of silliness will sate your thirst for laughs though you may not want to admit to it in the morning. While the story lacks any true originality, the go-for-broke acting of Wilson, Vaughn and especially Ferrell produces more laughs than one expects. The trio's vastly different styles complement each other to a tee. Their characters don't allow them to really stretch their comic muscles, yet by playing within their comfort zones they're able to relax into their roles and add some depth to the light-hearted fare.
Wilson plays Mitch, a sweet and responsible guy whose life is shattered when he comes home early from a business trip to find his girlfriend Heidi (Lewis) indulging her wild side. His two best friends Beanie (Vaughn) a bitter, married, father of two and Frank (Ferrell) a decent, yet confused newlywed attempt to perk up Mitch's spirits by throwing an all out bash at his new place right near the town's college campus. The party becomes the news of the school, igniting a deep need in the three friends to experience the fun and freedom of their old party ways. Like all films of this type, the administration run by Dean Pritchard (Piven), a past acquaintance who hates them, is not amused by their popularity and attempts to evict Mitch.
The gentleman fight back the only way they can, they start a fraternity. The usual drunkenness, stupidity and nudity prevails, though not quite in the way one expects. Mitch initially fails to see the joy in regressing, but his calm demeanor and quiet intelligence quickly win him the respect of the pledges and he begins to enjoy the experience. However, his biggest concern is re-winning the heart of his high school dream girl Nicole (Pompeo), who recently popped back into his life. She remembers him as a sweet, shy guy and is interested in getting to know him better, though the secret fraternity rumors fail to thrill her. The final third of the film has Mitch reaccepting his maturity and building a better future for his friends, his pledges and himself.
Wilson proves his leading man status once again, carrying this film and giving it more decency and heart than it probably had on paper. However, Ferrell steals the show. As Frank the Tank, he fails to accept his new role as a married man and grabs onto, without abandon, his inner child. His lack of personal shame provides the film's heartiest laughs. This may be only a baby step away from his SNL persona, but his charisma and energy is big screen all the way. Nobody does sarcastic and bitter better than Vaughn. Beanie is his SWINGERS character 10 years later. This is his most natural and entertaining performance in years. While the film stays on our trio and their related antics it's funny and charming. When it strays it falls flat. Thankfully, director Phillips knows the difference and keeps the asides to a minimum.
How the filmmaker's managed to dream up new comic situations despite the familiar surroundings is a testament to the sink hole of depravity that is the male mind. There are more than a handful of sequences that defy description that had me hysterical with laughter. OLD SCHOOL may not have the depth, poignancy or class of it's progenitor ANIMAL HOUSE, but it does capture the spirit of utter irresponsibility in the quest for pleasure that makes that film so great. Think of the cast of AMERICAN PIE as they approach their 10-year reunion and you've got the picture. Certainly, not a classic, but a fun, mindless romp that entertains without a stitch of bathroom humor. A big plus in my book that shows they tried to develop some original humor within the genre. Those not amused by gross immaturity beware.