**** (out of 5)
February 21, 2003
Luke Wilson as MITCH MARTIN
Will Ferrell as FRANK
Vince Vaughn as BEANIE
Ellen Pompeo as NICOLE
Craig Kilborn as MARK
Elisha Cuthbert as DARCY
Jeremy Piven as DEAN PRITCHARD
Directed by: Todd Phillips
BY KEVIN CARR
Let’s start by saying that “Old School” had no redeeming value to it. None at all. In fact, it held up so many things that are wrong in today’s society, making virtues of drinking, promiscuous sex, blackmail, cheating, drug use, poor academics and everything else that college students do that annoy people over 30.
This really isn’t a problem, though, because the film doesn’t pretend to have any redeeming values. It’s meant to be nothing more than an obnoxious college movie in the tradition of “Animal House” and “Revenge of the Nerds.” And on that point, it succeeds – hysterically.
Like the first “American Pie,” this film delivers on everything that is promised in the previews, including the teasing for bare-breasted women during a K-Y jelly wrestling match.
“Old School” is a “Porky’s” for guys in their 30s. The film makes any red-blooded American male long for everything that made college fun – the drinking, the sex with 19 year old girls and the partying. In fact, I even heard one guy sitting next to me whisper to his friend in a somewhat pathetic way, “Man, I really miss college.” (Of course, this is a vicarious wish, because if many of us really headed back to college, we’d find ourselves living on a diet of beer and Cheetos and not exactly swarming with beautiful young hotties.)
Luke Wilson plays Mitch Martin, a 30-year-old nice guy who has just caught his girlfriend cheating on him. After moving out and attending the wedding of his college chum Frank (Will Ferrell), Mitch moves into a house near the local college campus. (It’s the only place he can really afford at the moment.) Their other friend Beanie (Vince Vaughn) sees this as an opportunity to have some fun. Because they have an untapped wealth of college students in the area, the guys start to throw parties where the college kids can come have a real blast.
Things take a problematic turn when Dean Pritchard (Jeremy Piven) comes to the house to announce that Mitch will be evicted because he has no affiliation with the university. However, this doesn’t stop Beanie, who decides to make a fraternity with a membership open to anyone. They don’t even have to be enrolled in the university. New frat brothers include slacker college students, older married men and the 89-year-old janitor named Blue.
The film turns into a battle between the frat guys who are trying to keep their house and brotherhood fun and Dean Pritchart who is trying to get them kicked off campus.
In a way, this film actually makes fun of the Greek system. Beanie, Frank and Mitch decide to make a fraternity, but one without all the annoying problems of academics and community involvement. It’s a brotherhood of guys to get together, drink and have a big party. Isn’t this, after all, the reasons to join a fraternity? I’ve never heard a guy say, “Dude, I’m gonna rush Pi Kappa Alpha because they do so much for the community.” Not that the Greek system is bad, per se, but “Old School” has some fun at its expense while it pays homage to its crazy side.
If there is any failure in “Old School,” it is the fact that the filmmakers try to make Mitch too much of the good guy, including a relatively needless love interest in the young and pretty Nicole (played by Ellen Pompeo, who could be Renee Zellweger’s better looking sister).
“Old School” is cast with actors who are best known for their supporting roles. Even the leading man Luke Wilson hasn’t securely carried a movie on his own. He usually has to be paired with someone like Martin Lawrence or his own brother Owen. Vince Vaughn is the quintessential obnoxious best friend from his roles in films like “Swingers” and “Made.” Will Ferrell, one of the funniest actors in America at this time, will sadly never be a leading man like other SNL movie stars like Adam Sandler. However, together, these three actors have an excellent chemistry and carry the movie quite nicely.
Part of the rustic charm of “Old School” comes from a rather clever mixture of subtle humor (like Beanie’s constant promoting of his chain of Speaker City stores) and crass humor (like Will Ferrell streaking through the center of town). Of course, this brings me to a bit of a warning. You’ll see a lot of Will Ferrell in this film. And I mean a LOT. Will Ferrell is a fearless comedian, and he commits completely to his insanity in the film, and that makes it work.
But he can be a little scary sometimes.