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IN SHORT: What you get when you remove the sex and drugs from a sex and drugs and rock n roll fratboy comedy. Pathetic. [Rated R for some strong sexual content, nudity and language. 91 minutes]
When it comes to movies about sex and drugs and drinking and rock 'n' roll, Animal House set the standard twenty plus years ago. Every two to three years since we've planted for another movie about sex and drugs etc., with regularity. This season's entree is Old School, starring those masters of comic timing, Vince Vaughn and Luke Wilson.
What's that you say? Vince Vaughn and Luke Wilson are not names you associate with Master's Degrees in Comedy? Have no fear, dear reader, they still aren't. How you feel about Saturday Night Live alumnus Will Ferrell is up to you. Old School is, as one critic younger than we are put it, "just another comedy for potheads." Well, dear colleague, Cranky used to be a pothead and we can tell you, this ain't no comedy . . .
We affirm that statement by the actions of a non-critic sitting near us who, when asked afterwards about the funny movements he was making with his hands during the run of Old School said, plainly, "I was counting the jokes." He barely made it to the second hand, which is about right by our count of one very funny sex joke and another handful of lines worth a chuckle or, maybe, a chuckle and a half. Truly, we were in the mood for a stupid fratboy comedy. Old School, for whatever reason, has decided that it could make do by removing almost all of the sex and drugs and drinking jokes from its template. That leaves a lot of bad cover versions of "classic rock" songs, and just about the only laughs in the thing.
30-ish Mitch (Luke Wilson) is so in love that he rushes home early from a business trip to surprise his beloved Heidi (Juliette Lewis). Heidi, unfortunately, is sexually entwined in a whole gang of surprises. Mitch grabs the first available rental house he can get his hands on -- right in the middle of Harrison University, where all the men are drunk and all the nineteen year old femmes are fit for Playboy and hornier than heck. Mitch's married pal Beanie (Vince Vaughn), promotes a "housewarming" party to end all parties. Mitch gets plastered beyond belief, but that doesnt stop him from recognizing, and making a clumsy play for, the lovely Nicole (Ellen Pompeo) -- after all he did stalk her in high school. But, when he awakes the next morning, it is the equally lovely, and much younger, Darcy (Elisha Cuthbert) in the bed next to him, raving about his sexual prowess during the night he cannot remember.
Mitch must've been good. Both of 'em still have their clothes, albeit underwear, still on. Even better, Mitch is now known all across the campus as "The Godfather."
Do not ask us to explain that. Like many of the blackouts that comprise the first act of this monster, it makes little sense and generates no laughter. And while Beanie is the instigator of just about everything you'll see, he's got a wife and two little Beanies and a successful chain of home electronics stores and we're not sure exactly what he's getting out of this deal since he never bitches about losing his fortune in a divorce action if he cheats; a moot point since he never cheats or, frankly, does anything of interest.
Rounding out our trio of would be degenerates is just married Frank (Will Ferrell). With permission of his ball 'n' chain, Frank goes to Mitch's party on condition that he doesn't unleash something called "Frank the Tank." Again, don't ask us. He isn't built like a tank. He can't hold his liquor like a tank. Ferell will do all the incredibly stupid stuff that usually serious actors like his co-stars won't because, face it, he's a comic and he's supposed to make an ass of himself.
And, of course, Dean Pritchard (Jeremy Piven) was the nerd slash geek that Mitch and Frank and Beanie picked on back in their legit college days. He, of course, wants revenge and voids Mitch's lease because the house must be used for campus activities. Beanie decides to form a fraternity with a liberal, open admissions policy so that every other thirty something male can get a piece of, well, you figure it out. More conflict is added when Nicole's cheating boyfriend Mark (Craig Kilborn) shows up to redefine the meaning of [expletive deleted, ending in "hole"].
Even with cameo appearances by Seann William Scott, Snoop Dogg and a genuinely funny bit by Andy Dick, it shouldn't be easy to mess up a standard frat versus the college template but Old School makes its best effort! If this sounds like a lot of unrelated sketch comedy bits stapled together in a desperate attempt to make thirty seconds of movie that will look great when shown in clip form on all the talk shows, pat yourself on the back and spend your money elsewhere.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Old School, he would have paid . . .
Yeah, we're not the target demographic for Old School but, as is our choice, we sat in a theater stuffed with the target. One belly laugh and half a dozen chuckles does not offer up enough reason to drop a ten spot. Get ripped and rent it.
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