9 February 2003 | 2blackcats
A Welcome return to Reckless Abandon
Caught a preview showing last night, and I'm a little surprised myself to report that the aptly named Old School is actually a welcome return to a formula all but abandoned by Hollywood for much of the past couple of decades - that of the unapologetic, raucous, cheap laughs for cheap-laughs sake, male-bonding fraternity picture. It is Animal House. It is Porky's. It is every cliche one comes to expect from such a picture - from wild frat house parties to girls wrestling in KY jelly. And, strangely enough, it delivers... with a good cast and a fresh twist. For the group of guys that assemble to start the fraternity that is the heart of Old School are all in their early to mid thirties. They are family men. They are husbands. They are fathers. They are boyfriends involved in serious relationships. They have all grown up.
Or so thought Mitch Martin (Luke Wilson), the "Godfather" of this return to the dorm comedy. When Mitch returns from a business trip to find that his girlfriend (Juliette Lewis) has been hiding from him a rather unnerving secret sex life, the guy begins to question the choices he's made in his life. And his friends are there to help. Best friend and self-made successful businessman Beanie (played with perfect comic timing by Vince Vaughn) suggests they take advantage of Mitch's new found freedom and start a fraternity. And it isn't long before every disillusioned and disenfranchised thirtysomething wants to join - to either recreate their days of reckless youth, or finally belong after years of being an outsider.
Among such misanthropes is Frank the Tank, a character that Will Ferrell makes his own. Literally baring all for the camera, Ferrell, like Saturday night live alum John Belushi before him, plays the wild but affable frat brother - the sad clown, the loveable loser. Ferrell gets all the best lines, but a few are reserved for the sardonic Vaughn. Wilson, to his credit, plays it straight, and the supporting cast (including Leah Remini, Artie Lange, and even the usually annoying Andy Disk in a hilarious cameo) is quite good.
Certainly, Old School is not Oscar material. It's not meant to be. And it makes no pretension to comedy of the kind that My Big Fat Greek wedding brought back into vogue. This is not a feel-good romantic comedy. But it is also not to be dismissed as some insipid throwaway college romp. Old School is intentionally sophomoric (all the more so, as it is director Todd Phillips' second big studio comedy). It is genuinely funny in parts, and a healthy hour and a half return to those days of reckless abandon that many of us dreamt we either had back - or had had in the first place.