Movie Review
Old School
Old School poster
By Lee Tistaert     Published February 9, 2003
US Release: February 21, 2003

Directed by: Todd Phillips
Starring: Vince Vaughn , Luke Wilson , Will Ferrell , Ellen Pompeo

Running Time: 90 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $75,150,000
9 of 132
Consistently laugh-out-loud funny
Old School may be the closest I?ve seen a film come to meeting the status of Animal House. If the idea of Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell in the hands of R-rated material strikes your fancy, you?re in for a hell of an awesome ride.

The really unique and great thing about this college comedy is that writer/director Todd Phillips (Road Trip) does the unthinkable and barely showcases a single gross-out joke throughout the entire trip. Instead of having us be in amazement toward what we?re watching unfold before our eyes (in a disgusting state), the humor and the belly laughs are being withdrawn due to the characters themselves. Phillips has basically fast-forwarded through the history of the college comedy genre (and done a clever homage to a couple in the process), and wrote himself an adventure that makes the notion of spending $7+ dollars at the ticket window very deserving.
Keep in mind that this isn?t exactly American Pie or Road Trip, as it?s geared toward a slightly older age group of moviegoers, and possibly those who were even around when Animal House was in release (there were some in attendance). That?s not to say that teens won?t find it funny, but the sneak preview show was a pretty full house of mostly college folk and the roof nearly came down on many occasions.

Another solid mention is to note how the story does not focus around a really stupid centerline, as it?s not just a cheese-ball little premise simply allowing for laughs to ensue. While Old School is not overly intelligent in its plot, it does not insult the viewer and it does not distract from the material itself. The comedy begins as Mitch Martin (Luke Wilson) is taking an early flight home when he catches his girlfriend fooling around with two other people. Ditching her and losing the house, Mitch and his two middle-aged pals, Beanie (Vince Vaughn) and Frank (Will Ferrell), decide to rent out a home and turn it into their next party house, attempting to re-live the classic days of college fraternities.

What follows is a group of late 20?s/early 30?s guys with rather boring lives trying to re-experience the days that seemed to be forever gone. While such can come off corny or one-dimensional to some, I found it to be a little more rewarding than simply "A bunch of guys are hosting a party, allowing for an easy duration of laughs." The script doesn?t pay much attention to the idea of graduating from the college-state and wanting to return to such, but beneath it all, whether Phillips literally implied it or not I saw a connection. Once one goes through their college times, the craving to return to the party lives and the overall notion that fun can be reached at any moment can be evident. These are now-adults who want to re-live the inner kid inside them, and Phillips has executed this concept really well.

It?s hard to describe why this movie is so entertaining outside of the fact that it?s just consistently laugh-out-loud funny. Luke Wilson proves that he can hold an on-screen presence slicker than his brother, Owen, as it?s a role without the goofball nature and while not totally serious, it?s pleasing and very tolerable. It?s a performance that isn?t terrific, but it?s a toned down charisma that is very comforting and takes a break from the usual non-stop-talking lead. Luke knows he?s not as goofy as his brother, and in some respects such can be a good thing. I adore (to an extent) Owen?s character-actor approach (playing the same role in almost every film), but Luke?s reasoning here is a little different than previous works. Not as well done as Royal Tenenbaums, but this is more than just a loose delivery.

For anybody who admired Vince Vaughn?s fast and foul talking mouth in Swingers, Old School brings even more to the table to digest in the ways of humor. He can be harsh, nice, and even charming, but a lot of what he does can produce giggles down the aisles depending on your sense of humor. Vaughn holds the appropriate on-screen glare to like him at first sight and carries over the same comedic shtick that fans love him for. And thanks for this should be applied to Todd Phillips, who presumably wrote the part for the actor specifically. The role almost feels like it?s taken right out of Swingers and Made, with the obsessive foul nature but the ongoing hilarity intertwining. In simple words, he?s the hilarious asshole.

Having had witnessed this movie with a pepped up audience who you could tell was really ready for this adventure, the reaction to Will Ferrell was simply through the roof. Phillips has handed the comedian a role that could be his gateway to heaven in terms of future comedy success. Rather than a PG-13-themed role that Ferrell is more familiar with nowadays, this is the R-rated version of the SNL comedian that is never ever seen. In a way, he steals the movie with his continuing physical nature a la Chris Farley, and his willingness to really jump into a role without the fear of embarrassing himself. You can see that Ferrell is having a blast pulling off all the gags and jokes he executes, as silly natured as they ever go, and the actor?s enthusiasm can be very contagious when it comes to the viewer soaking it in. One such incident with his persona reacting to his first alcohol chugging at a party withdrew a good-sized applause.

Old School is really just plain fun entertainment at its ultimate best. It?s not an intellectual film, but it?s not stupid either. It?s one of the few times where an absolutely hilarious hour and a half has come from a movie refusing to give in to gross-out moments, permitting the character interaction itself to be the highlight of the show. When one is among friends, the laughter that can result is generally not from something sick revealed but the plain and simple point that someone said something that was god damn funny, or a criticism said to another. Old School?s humor is very natural, and when we?re living through a time in Hollywood when screenwriters rely on their raunchy substance to create the belly laughs, one can truly appreciate when a project comes along that very well knows that it doesn?t require disgust to be hysterical.

This is easily one of the most enjoyable movie-going experiences I?ve had in a long while, as not even Jackass was completely able to fill in the humor gap that was missing inside me. When I walked out of Old School, I had the great feeling of knowing that I received the laughs I had really craved for so many months. The rating still doesn?t go any higher due to the story not introducing anything in terms of material that is groundbreaking. Regardless, Old School hands in a hell of a great time at the movies, and may even make you want to go for a second trip.
Lee's Grade: B
Ranked #9 of 132 between Bad Santa (#8) and Identity (#10) for 2003 movies.
Lee's Overall Grading: 3025 graded movies
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'Old School' Articles
  • Craig's review A-
    February 22, 2003    One of the funniest flicks you will see all year long -- Craig Younkin