Why don’t critics get FUNNY? If you’re a regular reader of this site, you know that I’ve been saying for years that laughter is a wonderful and elusive thing and that I’m grateful for any movie which consistently provides it. Whether said movie is dumb, gross or shallow is a moot point. I’m not ashamed to admit it, I was a huge fan of ‘90s Saturday Night Live. Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman, Adam Sandler, Chris Farley, David Spade, Norm Macdonald, Rob Schneider, Will Ferrell… I love those guys, and I enjoyed most of the movies they’ve made since leaving the show, however juvenile. Again, it all comes down to the FUNNY. Sure, movies like A Night at the Roxbury or “Old School” are no masterpieces, but a guy like Will Ferrell is able to somehow lift them up beyond mediocrity into hilarity. Which is good.
The film was directed by Todd Phillips, not fraying too far from his previous directorial effort, the similarly rowdy college comedy “Road Trip”. Luke Wilson plays Mitch, a thirtysomething real estate lawyer who, after catching his wife (a blonde, deliciously naughty Juliette Lewis) about to be gang-banged by some of her Internet friends, moves to a house just by the campus of his old college. This inspires his not-so-happily married buddies Frank the Tank (Ferrell) and Speaker City manager Beanie (Vince Vaughn) to get back in touch with their former beer-bonging selves and start a fraternity with all of the fun and none of the education. “We’re gonna get so much ass here!”
“Old School” is a rowdy comedy, but it’s surprisingly not all that anything-for-a-laugh lowbrow. It’s got stuff like Ferrell streaking, an 89 year old slathered in K-Y wrestling with topless women or Andy Dick teaching “the art of the blowjob”, but for the most part the humor comes from the characters. The lead actors are typecast, with Ferrell being goofy SNL-style, Vince Vaughn doing the loudmouth jackass thing he did so well in Swingers and Made and Luke Wilson acting as the straight man like in Bottle Rocket or Legally Blonde, but the refreshing thing is how the three play off each other. It’s too bad about Jeremy Piven, who’s wasted in the thankless role of the uptight dean and, wonderful as she is, even Ellen Pompeo can’t change the fact that her little romantic angle with Wilson feels like party-pooping. Nonetheless, “Old School” packs huge laughs, and that’s where it’s at with comedies. FUNNY!