Old School (2003)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Farce  |   Release Date - Feb 21, 2003 (USA)  |   Run Time - 90 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Jason Buchanan

At one point in director Todd Phillips' post-Animal House, pre-midlife crisis comedy Old School, love interest Nicole (Ellen Pompeo) slyly mentions to Mitch (Luke Wilson), the "Godfather" of a ragtag fraternity, that she always wondered what went on in "those places" (meaning frat houses). Herein lies the problem with Old School: if anyone should know enough of what goes on in frat houses to make a solid collegiate comedy, it's director Phillips. As the man behind the controversial and ill-fated documentary Frat House, Phillips personally endured the legendary "hazing" process and was subsequently threatened with multiple lawsuits by Greek society members for the sometimes shocking situations he captured them participating in. With this wealth of knowledge, it would seem that Phillips would undoubtedly be the man to avoid the cliché and breathe new, authentic life into the long-suffering college party film. Yet despite his previous experience with the wild side of Greek culture, audiences are inexplicably served up the same "save the frat house from the evil dean" plot that seemed laughably played-out when PCU hit theaters nearly a decade ago. Audiences have no doubt seen all the characters and many of the situations in Old School countless times before, and despite the talented cast involved, only SNL alum Will Ferrell seems to be able to muster the energy needed to transcend the hackneyed material. A fearless and at times surreal performance, Ferrell's suppressed maniac Frank "the Tank" provides Old School with not only 80 percent of the laughs, but a sole, strangely tender comic moment which with a lesser comic actor would have been swallowed up in the flood of clichés. It now seems as if every generation needs an Animal House to call their own, filled with the comic actors of the day and spiked with the popular radio hits of the moment. Taken as such, Old School does indeed serve its purpose, yet it might have been more effective if it had attempted to break the mold instead of simply going through the motions.