HD DVD Review: Old School (Unrated)
By Frankie Dees Dec 3, 2007, 18:27 GMT
Three men relive their carefree college years by killing off as many brain cells as possible in this over-the-top comedy. Mitch (Luke Wilson) returns home from a less-than-pleasant business trip one evening to discover his wife, Heidi (Juliette Lewis), involved in a ménage à trois with two blindfolded strangers. Feeling less than welcome at home after this, Mitch rents a house near the campus of a nearby college; two of ...more
Only four years old, and I can safely say that ‘Old School’ has become close to a modern classic – a film that shot Will Ferrell to superstardom and cemented Vince Vaugn as the king of sardonicism – an ‘Animal House’ for our generation.
There were a few party poopers back in 2004 - curmudgeon Roger Ebert gave it one star claiming it wants to be ‘Animal House’. Gee, ya think? But unlike the plethora of Animal House rip-offs released soon after and through the years which focused solely on the beer-guzzling antics of frat boys and sorority chicks all too anxious to take their shirts off but left out equally important party ingredients - memorable characters and a genuinely sharp script - ‘Old School’ manages to get close enough as to draw comparison.
Writer-director Todd Phillips obviously devoted his young life into devouring the works of John Landis, Ivan Reitman (who produced this pic), Harold Ramis, even Blake Edwards, and that late seventies, early eighties comedic zaniness Is apparent throughout. The amalgam of that era of films combined with the distinctly modern but very different comedic styles of the three leads, Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn and Luke Wilson, ends up being a very successful combo.
All three actors hone their performances here into what will probably end up being the epitome of what their remembered for – the man-child, boobish Ferrell, the fast-talking sarcastic Vaughn, and the dry, straight-man Wilson (who maybe gets less credit than he deserves playing off those other two ‘showy’ performers).
The plot is incidental and rarely makes sense in any realistic manner but it more than holds its own when compared to other pics of its ilk like ‘Revenge of the Nerds’. Poor put-upon and rumpled Mitch (Wilson) returned home early to find his girlfriend (Juliette Lewis) taking part in some extracurricular group activities that revolves around underwear and blindfolds and promptly moves out and into the ‘safety nest; of his pals.
He and thirty-something friends Beanie (Vince Vaughn), a married college drop-out who owns a successful electronics store franchise, and Frank (Will Ferrell), newly married, get excited about the opportunities of Mitch’s new house – located on the campus of the local university.
When the school’s dean (Jeremy Piven) issues an evict notice to Mitch and the guys, the dean still smarting from being picked on by them as a youngster by the name of ‘Cheese’, Beanie talks Mitch into taking drastic measures to retain the house – they’ll turn it into a fraternity – a fraternity that has absolutely no conditions on being able to join other than the whim of the three starters. Thus, a fraternity of misfits, young and old, is created. Cue the funny initiation hijinks.
With their frat throwing the best parties (funded by the deep pockets of Beanie who uses the parties as marketing for his stores and who even goes to the length of bringing in Snoop Dog for a private concert), the frat becomes all the rage around campus with Mitch being billed as ‘The Godfather’ around town. The Dean becomes obsessed with shutting them down, and bribes the head of the student council to put into turn the motion of shutting them down.
If they can pass a variety of academic , physical and school spirit tests, however, they have a chance to keep reliving their youth.
Although it’s true ‘Old School’ never becomes as smart as ‘Animal House’, I’d bet a beer bong most people will think it’s as funny. Besides some of the best comedic performances of recent years with the three leads, Jeremy Piven also manages to be quite funny as the exasperated villain.
Add to that notable cameos by Juliette Lewis, Sean William Scott, Andy Dick, Craig Kilborn and other work by Ellen Pompeo (now more popular thanks to ‘Grey’s Anatomy’), Elisha Cuthbert and funny frat cohorts Patrick Cranshaw as ‘Ol Blue’ and Jerod Mixon as ‘Weensie’, ‘Old School’ remains one of the funnier films of the last five years which also paved the way for later huge successes like ‘The Wedding Crashers’ and ‘The 40-Year-Old-Virgin’.
Dreamworks presents ‘Old School’ with a 1080p VC-1 encode; a perfectly fine transfer with nice levels across the board, there’s not much here to find fault with. Not a pic to put in to wow friends and family with that new fancy HD thingamajig, fans of the film with an HD-DVD player would still do well to have this presentation over the SD version. The audio is par for the genre with a Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 track.
There are no new HD-exclusive features for this feature but at least Dreamworks saw fit to carry over all of the special features from the SD Unrated edition. First up is a great audio commentary that features director Todd Phillips along with Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn and Luke Wilson.
As you would expect, it’s a lively track that’s long on back-slapping and riffing and short on any actual technical and substantial info which is a nice change actually. A 13-minute featurette is next, the hilarious ‘Inside the Actor’s Spoof’ where Ferrell makes himself like James Lipton and interviews the leads, including himself, and the director.
Next are some Deleted Scenes that are worth checking out, Outtakes and bloopers, and finally Trailers and TV Spots to wrap up.
Dreamworks did a nice job with this HD-DVD release with a solid transfer and some nice special features carried over from the SD release (not to be taken lightly as Paramount has a nasty habit of dropping all features).
If you already have the SD version, I’m not sure the change in video quality would be worth the 25 bones or so to upgrade but if you’re coming to the film for the first time, I could easily recommend a purchase.