a critiQal film review Old School (2003)

Plot: After Mitch (Wilson) finds out his wife is cheating on him, his friends try to cheer him up. In his new rental place near the local college, they throw him a huge party. With the Dean of the school (Piven) trying to get them kicked out of the house, they decide to create an unusual fraternity. Now all they have to do is prove they have what it takes to be a fraternity...even as Mitch tries to get his life back in order.

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  • ...Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn and Luke Wilson lead the pack in another film that's nothing but a wannabe Animal House.

It’s pretty much inevitable these days in Hollywood. What do you do when a huge smash is getting a lot of hype? Create another movie with loosely the same idea, and cash in on the hype. That’s what’s happened here.

A classic movie has just been re-released in a special edition DVD (National Lampoon’s Animal House), so new movie Old School is released. The question is: what direction will they take? Will they try to do a repeat of Animal House (crazy partying), or will it be more up Van Wilder‘s (gross-out pranks) alley ?

I guess the major question should be: do we really want a copycat, or do we want something original?

The acting in Old School was below par, even for this type of film. Will Ferrell, not known for his acting, either on “Saturday Night Live” (TV) or in films (Night at the Roxbury, anyone?), comes off looking more idiotic than usual here – and only part of that is because of his character. His relationship scenes are like watching someone speak to a rock – he shows about the same emotion.

Luke Wilson comes out the best here, but even his usual downplayed persona seems too bland for this crowd.

Vince Vaughn, largely remembered for his role in Swingers, seems totally out of place as well here, and he’s supposed to be the ringleader of all the shenanigans that take place.

Jeremy Piven, long known for his college films, has his role reversed in this film, and it doesn’t suit him one bit. The fraternity really could have used some of his old exuberance, and Will just doesn’t even begin to compare.

Juliette Lewis, absent recently from films, manages to eke out a cameo performance, but she shouldn’t be too quick about putting this film on her resume.

The plot seemed to get confused with itself partway through Old School. It starts off as semi-original, with the guys forming a fraternity made up of normal people with varying ages. Then, maybe because they needed some sort of finale to the film, or for whatever reason, they suddenly need to band together, shed their non-fraternity trappings, and show the school what they’re made of.

They could have gone so many different ways with this film, and they seemed to end up undecided on which way to go. The result is a seemingly slapped together film that ends up just meandering around before finally grounding to a halt.

Could Old School have been better? Oh yes, most definitely. Could it have been worse? Sure – Vince Vaughn and Luke Wilson could have been replaced by two more has-been non-funny stars like Will Ferrell.

As it is, it’s not up there with the greats of the college scene, such as PCU and Animal House – it’s just yet another slapped together film that’s trying to cash in on their success. Old School? Yeah, right – it wishes.

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